Loki often wondered just when it had begun. His early years were hazy memories, filled with contentment and happiness – that he knew with great certainty, but what else they contained he had long since forgotten.

He wondered when his answers began to be no longer satisfactory for anyone, when the truth that he said was heard by them as lies.

Loki never meant to lie.

But, somehow, he would be asked a simple question – one to which the answer was certain – and his answer was never correct. 'Where were you yesterday?' would come the query. 'In the library,' would be his reply. And then he would receive scathing looks and glares and huffs, and he would find himself suddenly treated with contempt.

It never occurred when Thor was at his side, he realized, and so Loki spent as much time as possible near Thor.

When he began lurking behind his brother in corridors, Thor called Loki to his chambers and gave him a fierce look before asking, "Brother, what strangeness are you up to now?"

"None," Loki answered, shaking his head rapidly, "I merely miss your company."

Thor had laughed and clapped Loki across the back and said, "Then, my company you shall have! Until you tire of it, or maybe not 'til far after – as repayment for your behavior these past few weeks."

But, the amount of time for Thor to humor Loki's sudden clinginess soon passed and his brother warned him off with fierce threats of dunking in a cold mountain stream if Loki did not leave him alone.

So he did.

And it gradually became far worse.

There would be moments when Loki would be striding along in the corridor or sitting in the library or even waking in his chambers when dizziness would suddenly come upon him and his vision would go black. When his sight returned, he would find himself in a different place with no explanation.

It was subtle sometimes – the same hallway with a different tapestry on the wall or vase on the side – and sometimes it was not.

Once, in the middle of a battle, about to be skewered by an Elf's spear, Loki suddenly found himself alone, standing in a field that seemed untouched by war. He had called Heimdall and the man had looked at him for a long moment, silent. Loki offered no explanation and quickly retreated to his quarters.

Often, he would find himself under inquiry when he regained consciousness. He quickly learned to mask his confusion and speak vague answers that more mocked the questioner than answered anything.

If they so wanted to call him a liar, he would become one. It was ironic, but unavoidable – to his eyes. Any attempt at explanation would most likely result in him being labeled a lunatic. That was the one outcome he feared the most.

Loki was sitting in the library, reading as many of the ancient texts on curses as he could find, when the guards slammed the doors open. Within moments, he was dragged out of his seat and forced towards the door with arms wrenched behind his back. It spoke of how accustomed he was to such behavior that he did not struggle in the least.

It was not until he was thrown to his knees before the throne that Loki remembered Thor was not in Asgard. His eyes widened and his palms slid slightly on the floor as he pushed himself up to look at the All-Father. Odin One-eye was looking above Loki's head – to the petitioners who were standing behind him, he assumed, as he turned to look.

He was, well, not completely surprised to see the Lady Sif, along with her father, were there – her head raised proudly and covered by a unfamiliar scarf, gaze fixed down her nose on him.

Loki remembered that glare. It had been only a short time back – he had been at the training grounds, practicing with his throwing knives as Thor and his companions sparred with their short-range weapons. Thor had run over to Loki after a particularly exciting bout for him and begun to tell the whole story, though Loki had been right there watching. Humoring Thor, Loki had noticed Sif looking at him from across the training grounds, brow lowered and eyes narrowed in an obvious look of disgust and anger.

Fearing what she had plotted against him, Loki turned back to Odin and bowed his head slightly. "Father, for what have I been summoned before the court?" he asked, voice as differential and submissive as he could make it.

There was a long moment of silence from the All-Father, filled with murmuring from the present Aesir.

"Lady Sif has come before me with a charge against you, Loki. She claims you entered her chambers and removed her hair as she slept."

Loki gaped as he looked between Odin and Sif. Firstly, he thought, how could she blame him if she had been asleep? Also, Loki, well, he was loath to admit, but Sif's hair had always brought to mind Thor's. He would no more do harm to her hair than do harm to his brother's.

Vehemently shaking his head, Loki protested, "I have remained in the library for the past week, Father." He always remained there when Thor was away on trips – separating himself often resulted in less incidents like this.

"Have you any witnesses?" Odin asked, gaze finally falling on Loki.

Loki remained silent for a moment and then bowed his head further, "No, All-Father; but on my honor, I swe –" As he spoke, Loki wished desperately that Thor could have been there; when Thor was present, Loki was always believed.

Gungnir struck the floor loudly, the sharp sound sending a trembling through Loki's hands. "Save your words," Odin declared, "Your reputation for lies and schemes is well-known, Loki." He raised himself from the throne and added, "You will be sentenced with isolation…" Loki tilted his head up slightly – isolation in his chambers was no harsh punishment, "In the Vault." Loki could feel the blood run from his face. The Vault, while seemingly harmless, was most likely his least favorite place to be, and, he realized, Odin knew this. "After your sentence is served, you shall travel to Nidavellir and find a suitable replacement for Lady Sif."

There was a rustle behind him, and Loki turned to see Sif uncover what was once brilliantly-blonde hair, but now was a dark black. His lips almost turned up in a smile; her hair had grown back black to reflect the darkness in her heart, Loki thought.

Before a word of protest could pass his lips, Loki's arms were again seized and he was led from the room.

There was only one place large enough for one of Loki's size – well into his teenage years now – to curl up to sleep. It was an empty pedestal, at the junction of two columns near the Casket of Winters.

Loki clambered up onto it when he first arrived and made no move to leave it. He was wary of what Odin's mind may be on him having free reign of the Vault – one bad move could result in the Destroyer coming awake within the room with him.

That was an outcome Loki did not desire in the least.

So he spent his time sleeping, though he was not tired, and hungering and thirsting, though he would not starve, and just sitting. And staring.

And wondering why. Why the Asgardians were so quick to turn against him. Why he was reviled for his spells while they were all only what he had learned from Odin. Why it was only around Thor that he was safe from the accusations and lies.

And not daring to cast even the slightest spell – even sparks from his fingertips – in fear that it would awaken the Destroyer.

And hoping that one of those moments where the world would suddenly go black and he would wake up, dizzily, in some other place or some other situation and again be pronounced a liar. Because, by now, Loki would almost prefer that to sitting alone without a sound but his own breathing.

He opened his eyes to see his father standing before him; Loki noticed something he could not name, but thought seemed like satisfaction in Odin's gaze. Slowly, he released his cramped legs and stretched his feet down over the edge of the pedestal.

Odin tilted his head back slightly and then declared, "Your sentence is half-done. It is my hope, my son, that you will learn to curb your mischievous ways during this time." Loki lowered his gaze to Odin's hands and watched one of them clench slightly in a fist. "I am," Odin paused for a long moment, "Concerned for you. I truly do wish for you to change your ways."

Loki held back his snort of disbelief. To Odin, Thor was his pride and joy; Loki was just a substitute – pulled off his shelf when Thor was not present and there was a diplomatic show to be done and then placed back in shadow when Thor reappeared. Loki's well-being, or behavior for that matter, was of no consequence to Odin.

Instead of saying what he truly desired, Loki lifted his head and stilled his swaying legs. Odin studied him for a long moment, again that glint of some hidden emotion present, and then turned and climbed the steps to leave the Vault.

When the doors opened before him, Loki cleared his throat and asked, "Father?"

Odin paused, light from the corridor framing his figure, and turned his head slightly to the side. Loki bit his lip and then said, "Could I see my brother, Thor? Surely he has returned by now." Just to be able to see him – and Thor would certainly bring with him tales of adventure and excitement from beyond Asgard – and be believed by him would hold Loki through the rest of this quiet isolation. Loki knew, without a doubt, Sif had spun her tale for Thor as well, and Loki could not bear Thor thinking him a…a….he did not know what they were calling him this time. But the names he had already been called were more than shameful. He needed to tell Thor the truth – for he could never lie to Thor and Thor always believed him.

He closed his eyes and waited for the reply, biting on his lip anxiously.

"No," Odin answered.

The doors slammed shut behind him.

It had been two months, Loki discovered later, and yes, two months should have been but nothing to him. Thor had fought without rest in battles for longer, but he had been so alone, just him in his head.

The doors opened silently one day and Loki merely stared at the light streaming in from the corridor for a long time. Slowly, he pushed himself down off the pedestal and found his legs were cramped and asleep after remaining curled up on them for so long.

Loki fell to his hands and knees and crawled towards the door – hoping there were none in the hall who would see this shameful display. He had made it up the stairs and was about to pull himself up by the door handle when his eyes met with a pair of boots.

Familiar boots – yes, he could even list off where several of the scrapes and scratches on them had come from, skirmishes and adventures not even a year past. Loki raised his eyes, almost unwillingly, and met those of his brother. Thor said nothing for a long moment, merely staring down at Loki, before he reached out a hand with a low, calm, "Here."

Feeling a blush run across his cheeks, Loki took his hand and allowed himself to be pulled to his feet. His lower legs were tingling with renewed blood flow, but he knew they would hold his weight now.

Thor did not release his hand as he continued to study Loki. "You look quite unwell, brother," he remarked, voice still soft.

Loki attempted to pull his hand back, only to find Thor's grip was strong and sure, and turned his face away. "I'd like to go to my chambers now, Thor, release me." His voice was wavering and hoarse.

His brother immediately began tugging him down the hallway. Loki stared at his brother's back as he stumbled along and wondered what people would say if they saw Thor and Loki now. But he knew from experience that, no matter what situation Thor was in, he was always the Golden Prince, the brave one, the honorable one.

Everything Loki was not.

Loki had once wondered why Thor's punishments were so light – a week or two in his chambers or perhaps a day spent in the kitchens – while Loki's often seemed cruel. But, he knew now, after years of observing Thor and how the people reacted to him, that it was because he was so very perfect. Thor was Odin's heir, and Loki was just the extra, the expendable one, the one who should not have even existed.

And, suddenly, he was hit with a deep throbbing envy of Thor, of his perfect, perfect brother. It was almost followed by a deep hatred, but, Loki knew Thor had always been so kind to him, so wonderful. Loki thought of him in the same way, Loki knew he was the perfect Golden Prince. So, he put down his envy, snuffed out his hatred, and instead let himself suffer an aching desperation to be Thor's equal – to be one Thor could look at and think 'Yes, Loki deserves to remain by my side.'

There was a flash of remembrance that ran through his mind in that moment and he recalled a dream that he had been having for as long as he could remember – a dream that he had often had while sitting in the Vault.

One of Thor smiling at him, speaking to him with soundless words, of Loki replying, of them laying in a field of gold as the sun set low in the sky.

He shook his head slightly to clear the dream from his mind – he could not fathom why such a thought had triggered a memory of that dream.

Thor noticed the movement and turned his head slightly. He stopped abruptly in the hall, causing Loki's shoulder to bump against Thor's, and then was crowding his younger brother back towards the wall.

There was a moment of near-silence, filled with only the sound of quick breaths, before Thor's voice was rumbling in his ear. "Tell me what happened."

Tell me you did not do what they say.

Loki blinked several times and thought for a moment about lying, about saying that he was truly to blame. Just to spite Thor. But, then, with a sharp intake of air, Loki realized he never wanted to lie to Thor.

If only one person ever believed him, Loki wanted it to be Thor. So, his lips slowly parted and he let out a shaken, "I didn't do it."

Thor eyed him for a long moment and then asked, "You swear?"

"I swear, Thor, I swear." Loki gripped onto Thor's forearm. "I would not lie to you."

Thor's arm twitched under Loki's grip and then he squeezed back.

Loki grimaced as he reached the best forge in Nidavellir to search for a suitable gift for the Lady Sif. The dwarves there were eager to offer their services – especially when they discovered Loki was a prince of Asgard – and Loki explained what he required.

Hair of gold was their solution – it would be marvelous, and would outshine what she had had before, they guaranteed.

Giving them indulgent smiles, Loki had agreed to their simple price.

They returned with the hair, along with two other gifts – one for the Vanir Freyr and one for Odin himself. Loki was so pleased – for surely Father could not be so dissatisfied with him now – he forgot himself and praised the two dwarves loudly.

He suddenly found himself being forced into a gamble with the dwarf brothers of the neighboring forge. 'Our three gifts being more impressive than these three is the wager. The loser shall owe the winner a boon of your choosing,' they declared.

Loki, quick to reply and not allow himself pressured into a worse situation, quickly answered, 'A month's labor free of charge.'

'Do you swear by this price?' they asked him, eyes glinting with something Loki was slow to realize.

'I so swear,' he had answered.

It was only later that he realized they had never sworn in reply.

Loki waited anxiously as all the gifts were inspected; a month of labor would not be a harsh price to pay, but he cared not for any having power over him, even in such a meager way as free labor.

When their gifts were chosen instead of his, Loki's heart seemed to freeze in his chest for a moment. It was only when the elder of the brothers stepped forward and declared to Odin that the price of the wager had been Loki's head – and that they desired it as their trophy – that Loki protested and cried out, "That was not our wager!"

The two dwarves turned to him with smiles on their faces and the younger said softly, "Surely the younger prince of Asgard is not an oath-breaker?"

There was a murmur throughout the court – Loki caught bits of 'silvertongue' and 'lie-smith' – and Loki looked around in horror as he realized Odin had somehow convinced Thor to be away from Asgard. Perhaps he was hunting again, or settling a small skirmish in some other realm; the reason mattered not to Loki, his only care was that his honesty was never believed if Thor was not present.

Loki raised his head quickly when he realized his so-called 'silvertongue' could perhaps still preserve his life. "My head you have claim to," he declared, "But the same is not true of my neck. You must leave it intact."

The dwarves fixed fierce glares on him, but Loki turned his head towards Odin and asked, "Are my words wrong?"

Odin was silent for a long moment and then he shook his head and answered, "Your reasoning is sound. Brokk, Eitri, do as you will with his head, but his body must remain as it is now."

There was only a moment of whispered conference between the brothers – all the while, Loki's heart pounding and racing in his chest – before Brokk declared, "I shall then seal his lie-sprouting lips."

Loki watched with dread as he produced an awl and a leather strap. His eyes darted between Odin and Frigga above him and the dwarves as they approached, snickering.

He closed his eyes and resigned himself to the punishment – for that was what this was, another punishment because Loki should not even exist and had no place here.

He was forced to his back and straddled by Brokk and the dwarf swiftly began to stab the awl through the soft, ever-so-sensitive flesh around his lips to bind them together.

Loki blinked between tears and stared up at Odin – who was looking at him with that unreadable expression again. And suddenly, he knew. Odin knew – for he had Heimdall, who saw all, and Huginn and Muninn, the ravens who could fly over any realm in a day and reported everything back to their master. Odin knew of Loki's curse. And he still allowed such travesties to be enacted upon his son.

For the honor of Asgard – for falsehood such as Loki was infamous for could not go unpunished in the land of the gods.

Tasting the thickness of blood down his throat, he swiftly turned his gaze to his mother. Surely she could not know, he thought, for she, with all her love, would never allow him to suffer so if she knew. Her head was bent, Loki saw, and he noticed that her hands were trembling, clenched together, in her lap.

She did not know then – she was crying, with no deceit, for the pain he was suffering.

He was half-done when Loki tilted his head back – ready to close his eyes in defeat – and saw his brother standing above him. His eyes were filled with the shock of betrayal, that much Loki could see clearly, and he fell heavily to his knees. His hands found their way to Loki's shoulders, fingers pressing what Loki knew would become dark, dark bruises into his flesh, and he pinned Loki to the ground fully.

Loki stared up at him for a long moment, the only sound his pathetic whimpers as the stitches continued to pull at his flesh, and then he attempted to speak the truth to his brother. "P-please," he forced out of his half-free lips, "Broth–…" he hissed against the pain but continued nonetheless, "No…l-lies."

Thor's eyes burned into his as the stitches were completed and Brokk tugged cruelly on the end of the thong.

I believe you, the gaze said to Loki, I believe you.

Loki squeezed his own eyes shut and felt the tears stream down his cheeks as he was surrounded by scoffs and laughter and mocking jeers. Thor, however, remained silent, hands bearing down on his shoulders, burning against him.

The moment the latch began to open on his door, Loki clambered off his bed and dashed across the room to the furthest corner. With the wall at his back, his chance to defend himself would be increased by a multitude.

He turned, eyes wide and breath coming fast through his nose, and flinched when he saw it was Frigga framed in the doorway. Loki shook his head once, flinching again as even that movement sent pain throbbing through his jaw.

His mother simply looked at him for a long moment – face shadowed due to the light pouring in behind her – and then she made her way, ever so slowly, into the room, door closing behind her.

Loki was ashamed to let loose a small whimper between his tightly-closed lips and he squeezed his arms together about his chest. Frigga began to make shushing noises as she raised her hands slowly – revealing a small pitcher and cloth in one of them.

When she reached his bed, Frigga sat down and merely placed a palm on the bed next to her. She spoke no words – neither of rebuke nor encouragement – but Loki slowly crept over to her side anyway.

Somehow, she managed to arrange them so his head was resting on her lap, close to her knees, and she dipped the cloth in the pitcher of water. Loki watched with apprehension as Frigga wrung most of the liquid out and then brought the cloth to his lips.

"You must get water or you will become weak and ill," she informed him as she pressed the cloth to his stinging lips.

He shamefully whimpered again and attempted to twist away. A gentle hand threaded through his hair stopped his movements and he squeezed his eyes shut as she continued to wet his lips.

Loki desperately wished he could swallow the water – or even just taste it – for the thick, heavy taste of blood was coating his mouth and throat and a whole month of this would be unbearable.

Sniffling, he turned until his face was pressing against his mother's stomach and he pulled his arms up to hug her. She continued to card her fingers through his hair as she gently admonished, "No tears now – you won't be able to breathe and you'll be far more uncomfortable than you are currently."

When he relaxed into her hold and ceased crying, she gave his neck a small rub and began to sing softly to him.

Loki fell asleep wishing he could smile.

It was Thor who came to him, after a month had passed, and straddled him in his bed and pulled out a knife.

Terrified his brother had finally given into the rage he was so famous for – perhaps he had decided Loki had been lying to him all this time and that had snapped his reason – Loki attempted to shove him off, cries dying behind his sealed lips.

A hand fell on his throat and he was pinned as Thor quickly sliced through the thong.

Loki took a gasping breath and stared up at Thor in shock.

It stung – oh how it burned – but he was free and nothing could destroy the happiness that came with that thought.

They remained staring at each other for a long moment and then Thor pushed off of Loki and disappeared from the room.

Loki rolled over and sobbed into his pillows.

"You're a liar," he declared to his reflection. Words from the hallway.

The young man in the mirror shook his head and protested, "But, I'm not; truly, I'm not."

Raising his chin, Loki said again, "You are a liar." Phrases spoken to him at the training grounds.

"No, no," came the reply, tears welling up in his reflection's eyes.

He brushed away the tear that was slipping down his cheek and hissed, "All you do is lie." From the feasts.

The tears were falling fast and heavy now, "I don't mean to – please, stop."

Loki lifted his chin high and replied firmly, "You are a lying, little sneak. Liar. Monster. Shadow-skulker. Lie-smith. Silvertongue." From the gardens, from the library, from the bathhouse.

His reflection said nothing in reply, head bowed and shoulders shaking.

Loki stood for a long moment before Heimdall before finally speaking. "How much can you see?" he asked, voice low. He had read, in the ancient tales, that only oath-breakers ever had their fate become as twisted as Loki's had. However, he could not remember making any oaths to have broken.

He wondered if everything he experienced was merely a creation of his own mind.

Though his gaze did not turn to Loki, the other replied, "I see all."

Loki dropped his own gaze to the floor and merely studied the scuffed toes of his boots for a long moment before he lifted his head again. "How much of me do you see?"

Now, the Aesir turned his eyes towards Loki and there was something that Loki thought might be sympathy in them. "You are often masked from my sight."

Swallowing against his dry throat, Loki felt his fingers twitch against his thighs and he clenched his hands into fists. When Heimdall finally looked away from him, Loki shuffled over to the wall and sat down against it – forehead pressing against his knees. He opened his mouth and then closed it again, question caught in his throat, before he finally spoke up, "Do you see realms like this one, but different – something different in every one?" His words were muffled against his trousers, but Loki was certain Heimdall had heard him.

He did not raise his head as he waited for the reply. It came after breathless moments and Loki squeezed his legs tighter when the answer came. "I do."

Loki nearly laughed – from relief or fear or anxiety, he did not know – and then asked, "Can I stay here for a moment?"

Heimdall did not reply, and, to Loki, that was as good as approval.

He remained there for quite some time before he finally pushed off the wall and made his way out of the Observatory. Loki was barely halfway back to the citadel when a cry of "Brother!" filled his ears. Thor was bearing down on him, eyes narrowed and lips pressed thinly against each other – an expression Loki had come to know as Thor's I-am-both-full-of-rage-and-disbelief look.

Loki froze where he was and waited for Thor to bear down on him. He was relieved to see, however, that Mjolnir was not on his person – he was safe from being pinned or, worse, struck across the face.

Thor's face was flushed with anger as he stopped before Loki, and he quickly reached out a hand to grip onto Loki's arm and gave him a shake. "Why have you done this?" he roared, voice nearly shocking Loki.

He tilted his head slightly and asked, "What have I been claimed to do now?"

Thor shook him again and declared, "Several treasured tomes are missing from the library and a witness claims you were seen sneaking out not an hour past."

Loki took a deep breath, keeping his face clear of expression, and said, "I have been in the Observatory since morning. Ask Heimdall."

Thor's gripped tightened on his arm and then slowly loosened. "Good, so I shall."

Tugging Loki along, he led him back the way he had come. Loki kept his gazed fixed low, pondering who had decided to place the blame on him this time. There was no reason for him to steal from the library, not when he had full access to it at any time.

Thor greeted Heimdall loudly when they entered the Observatory and immediately asked, "Has my brother been here since morning?"

Heimdall did not even look Thor's way as he replied, "He speaks the truth. He sat against the wall there for many hours."

There was a long moment of silence, broken only when both Loki and Thor gave sighs of relief, and Thor turned to Loki with a smile. "This is well indeed, brother! Surely Father cannot deny the word of Heimdall."

Loki blinked and replied, "Such is true."

"Come! We will explain to him at once," Thor declared, turning to leave the structure.

Loki began to step after him and then turned and stared at Heimdall. "You have known," he said softly, "Every time I was innocent. You knew."

Heimdall made no reply.

"Why have you not said anything?" Loki cried, hand brushing against the raised scars along his lips – ones he hid by a glamor at all times.

Thor called out behind him, but his voice was soft enough that Loki knew he had made it significantly far back before he had realized Loki was not with him. It would take him a bit of time to return.

"You owe me a reply," Loki bit out, glaring at Heimdall's back.

"The knowledge gained from my sight is only known to Odin when he requests it. He or Thor – his heir – are the only ones who I am required to answer," he answered.

Loki let out the air he had been holding in his lungs and resisted the urge to strike Heimdall. He had known all along. He had known and Odin had not asked because then he would be made liar – punishing Loki for crimes he knew he had not committed.

He turned to leave and then paused for a moment, turning his head slightly. Heimdall had given Loki the information freely, though he was not duty-bond to do so. "Thank you for your honesty," Loki said, allowing an amount of bitterness to rest on his last word.

Thor was waiting for him barely ten strides from the entrance – ten of Loki's, not Thor's, which meant he had been close. Close enough for Loki to give him a searching look, but Thor grinned at him and said, "Come then; this will all be settled quickly."

Loki shook his head slightly at him, but this was Thor and when Thor said something with that grin on his face, everyone believed him, Loki included, and followed Thor back to their home.

They were close enough to see the face of the guard by the entrance when Loki tugged on Thor's arm and said, "Thor, I have one request of you."

Without hesitation, Thor grasp his shoulder and said, "Anything – speak and it shall be yours."

"You must be the one to question me, Thor," Loki informed him, keeping his gaze fixed on Thor. Because, while Loki's word was worth so very little to the court, the word of Thor was always trusted. Thor was about to laugh at him, and tell him, as long as he told the truth, there would be no problem, Loki was sure. "Brother, please," he added, allowing a bit of his hidden desperation to creep into his voice.

Thor looked shocked for a moment and then nodded. His hand squeezed Loki's shoulder and Loki could not help but remember the last time Thor's hand had rested there.

Even with Thor's testimony of Heimdall's witness and Loki's protestations of innocence, Odin fixed a firm look on Loki and ordered him under confinement until either a month had passed or the true culprit had been found.

Loki had grit his teeth and prepared himself to be dragged off to the Vault again when he felt Thor's grip on his forearm. "Father, might I make a suggestion?" When their father said nothing, Thor continued, "I will watch over Loki in my chambers and prevent him from any mischief. If anything occurs that displeases you, he can be taken to the Vault. But, until then, let me guard him." Loki caught the implied 'Giving me a responsibility such as this is good preparation to become king' that Thor slipped into his request.

Odin for a moment looked as if he would object, but then Frigga – who rarely intervened with his decisions – placed a hand gently on his arm. Relenting, he struck Gungnir against the ground and declared Loki would be confined to Thor's chambers for the period of a month. Loki briefly wondered if the true thief would even be pursued – with Loki confined, it would be difficult for him to find the culprit.

Thor gave a stiff nod to their father and gently placed a hand on Loki's shoulder –making it as a firm hold to the rest – to lead him from the room.

Thor's chambers were in slight disarray when they arrived. As a result, when Thor shoved him in the door, Loki ended up tripping on over a chainmail tunic, then a spare training boot, barely avoided sprawling out across the floor, and ended up face down on the bed.

He pushed himself up swiftly, face flushed, but found Thor had strode past him, slamming the door shut, to the window. He was pacing now, back in forth in front of the afternoon sunlight.

Loki watched him for a long moment, wondering when he would finally snap, and so was not surprised when Thor turned toward him and half-yelled, "What just occurred?"

He shrugged and then sighed. "I am accustomed to it – put it out of your mind."

Thor was at his feet before Loki could turn his head. "Accustomed to what?" he growled, leaning down to place hands on either side of Loki's hips.

Loki bit his tongue slightly and gave Thor a wane smile, "Come now, brother; can you really pretend to have not noticed?"

That brought a satisfying silence over the larger man. Loki made to scoot back on the bed, away from his brother's warm breath, but Thor suddenly snapped his gaze back to Loki and admitted, "While I was aware, I never truly believed. All those times, you were not the culprit?"

Loki tilted his head back and asked, "What do you believe, brother mine? Was I guilty or not?"

Another contemplative silence fell over Thor and Loki was about to twist himself away from Thor's confining arms when his brother softly commented, "I always suspected. I know you take pride in your pranks and, so, always take credit where it is due."

Surprised Thor had noticed such, Loki nodded slightly. "I do."

Thor eyed him and pushed back slightly. "Does this not anger you?"

He said it with almost no emotion at all – as if he were asking after the weather or the date of the next feast. Loki glared and snapped back, "Of course I am angry!" The words were nearly a shout and somehow his face was hand's width from Thor's without his notice. "And I'm frightened!" He had not meant to say that – but such things always occurred with Thor. Loki never meant to tell him the truth, but always somehow ended up doing so.

Thor's glare softened, "Frightened? Who is? Not my fearless brother Loki?"

Loki's fists tightened around handfuls of blanket and he managed to turn his head away this time. "I am frightened," he admitted softly, "I am constantly afraid that I have lost my mind." Because, even with Heimdall's confession, Loki was still unsure if everything he experienced – everything he claimed as truth in his life – was merely imagined, produced by his mind to hide his guilt. He could have even imagined the conversations with Heimdall, the interpretations of Odin's looks.

Thor was silent, the only response a slight trembling in the bed from where his arms rested.

Turning his head back, Loki could not help but add, "I am not even sure of myself, of what is real and what is a dream, at times." His brother merely met his gaze, slowly lowering to his knees before Loki. "Please, Thor, help me find myself." He realized, far too late, that there were tears dripping down his cheeks.

His hand, moving to wipe them away, was caught by one of Thor's and Thor's other hand brushed against his skin, wiping away the tears.

Loki let out a soft sob and tried to duck his head away. Thor's lips caught his and prevented his escape. Warm hands gripped the bottom of his tunic and pulled up towards his chest.

Shuddering, Loki tried to break away from the gentle press of Thor's lips, but his brother followed him whenever he twisted. Warm hands came to rest on his back and Thor hissed against his lips. He felt warm air puff against his lips as Thor remarked, "You are so cold, brother."

Loki allowed his eyes to slide shut as their lips met again.

Loki had been reviewing Thor's coronation speech in the library.

He had been reviewing it there, he was certain, but now he was not in the library.

He was certain he was not even in Asgard.

Jotunheim, more like, he decided when his gaze fell upon the group of Frost Giants towering over him.

They were discussing something, pointing at glyphs on the table surface before them, so Loki peered around the room – attempting to discern where he was.

"Has our debate grown wearisome to you, Odinson?" one of them growled, hand slapping against the table.

Loki's eyes widened in a deliberate look of innocent surprise. "Oh, of course not!" They knew who he truly was then – had he been kidnapped in this scenario then perhaps? "I was merely admiring the wonderful…stalagmite there. Quite impressive," he declared, giving a smile.

"Laufey," one of the other Giants murmured, head turning to muffle his next words.

Laufey. King of Jotunheim.

Every time Loki faced these situations, he always wondered for a moment if, in some other reality, the Loki there had chosen these circumstances. Surely, he would comfort himself, he would never be so foolish as to meet with the Frost Giants.

Loki quickly turned his gaze towards the glyphs. They described a powerful spell – the one for travel between realms with the use of dark matter. It was a spell that required a powerful sorcerer indeed.

"If you fail in the casting of this spell," the Jotun nearest him growled, hand reaching towards his belted sword in unspoken threat.

Loki was to be the sorcerer then. And, with further inspection, he noted they were attempting to enter Asgard. On the day of Thor's coronation.

Well, Loki thought, a delay in the coronation would not be a terrible thing. Yes, Thor was the perfect prince, but he was brash and had a fierce temper. He tended to rush into actions without accepting council. He was not ready to be king. However, a warrior company of Jotun would most likely take no quarter in Asgard – their presence was something to avoid at any cost.

Loki's mind quickly raced – he was sure if he attempted to back out of this plan now, he would be gutted before he could conjure up even a doppelganger. Surely Heimdall would witness the arrival of the warriors. The guards were not so incompetent that they would fail before such a challenge. If all else failed, Loki could cast an illusion over himself and foil their plans alone.

He felt no shame making his way to an old battle site, where the runes of the Bifrost still remained. He called upon Heimdall and ignored the Aesir's gaze when he arrived in Asgard. Perhaps Heimdall would finally take preemptive action and warn Odin – Loki shrugged to himself slightly, he would feel no guilt if Heimdall did not.

Every night Thor was in Midgard, Loki had the dream. He would wake remembering warm sun on his face and formless words of excitement spoken in his ears. He would remember Idunn's orchard and the shine of apples. He would dream of Thor, smiling at him as if Loki was all he needed in the world. He would wake wishing he could dream forever.

It all made sense now – every little thing he had ever wondered over, had ever spent sleepless nights worrying over. He was a Jotun – no small wonder he had always been an outcast and a reject. There was no doubt this was why Odin had always placed him in the Vault – like a trophy, why Odin had allowed his humiliation again and again. It was a punishment, a punishment for being a Jotun brat whose very life Odin had so generously spared.

It mattered not now – Loki could accept this. He was, in fact, almost grateful to finally know.

But this, this could not explain his curse. Even being stolen from his own realm as a child would not result in him being cursed – if anything, Odin should be suffering the curse.

Loki felt anger well up in him. Odin should suffer a thousand curses, a million curses. He had known all along what Loki was, what Loki could never be, but had raised him as a sham. A Prince of Asgard – as a Jotun, Loki was not even worth a slave's position in Asgard. Odin himself had told Loki stories of glory in battle, slaying the Jotun dogs – had told him those stories of slaughtering his people and had made Loki crow in delight at the description of victory over the barbarians.

And he was one of them.

But, now, Loki needed to focus on Thor. For now, Loki truly understood why he could never have the throne – for an Asgardian would never accept a Jotun on their throne. He thought – thought to himself again and again, wishing that his thought would become a reality – that Thor would return ready to be king and that, upon discovering what Loki truly was, he could accept him in some way. If only Thor could ever think of Loki as redeemable, then that could be enough for Loki. That could quiet his rage and desperation.

He called the Destroyer from its slumber. Loki had read of golems, but had never cast the spells to control one or even witnessed his…the All-father manipulate his golem. It would require concentration and careful, careful wording.

Loki would bring Thor back – he would restore Thor to his godhood and bring him back and they would be together again. Loki needed to be at Thor's side – to support him and guide him to be the king that Loki could never, ever be.

"Cause harm to none of the humans – threaten but do not harm. Unless Thor attacks to defend those helpless Midgardians, then, and only then, do I give you permission to strike him." There, that should be the proper command, Loki thought. He knew, as a golem's controller, he would see all the Destroyer saw and be able to manipulate minor movements. An objective, however, was needed to define the golem's goal.

Loki often dreamed the dream now, in his Midgardian bed, surrounded by Midgardian things, thinking of Asgard and Thor and what he wished could be home.

He had escaped easily, that first time the so-called Avengers had subdued him and Thor had returned him to Asgard. Perhaps Odin had finally realized the cruelty of his actions towards Loki – that adopted children should be loved, not treated as whipping boys for any who blamed him for their crimes.

But, his cell had been scarcely warded – and Loki had learned from Odin, and so knew Odin was a far more powerful sorcerer than he ever cared to reveal – and his bonds had weak points.

Loki had escaped within months. And made his way to Midgard – for he knew, without Thor in Asgard, there were none there who would bare his presence. Not even Frigga, who had shuddered last she saw his curse-crazed eyes behind the gag the Man of Iron had so cleverly devised.

It was a warm day, but there were now a few small clouds drifting across the sky. Thor and Loki raced across the field once more and tumbled to a pocket of shade beneath one of the clouds – it moved slowly enough they could catch their breath beneath it before rushing off again. The golden green of the field surrounded them as they giggled in the grass.

Thor sat up suddenly and asked in a quiet voice, "What if I am not a good king?"

Loki pulled his gaze away from the cloud – it looked almost like Tyr, he decided – and looked at Thor. "You will be a great king."

He scoffed and crossed his arms, "No one will ever tell me if I am a bad king. Just like that, they'll just lie and say I'm a good king." His voice was raised now, and petulant in tone.

"I'd never lie to you like that," Loki commented, voice soft. He pushed his upper body off the ground and turned to Thor.

Thor stared down at his wringing hands. "What if you're not there? You have to stay by my side always."

"I will," Loki answered – there was no place he would rather be than at his brother's side.

"Swear," Thor declared, "Swear it by the All-Father."

Giving him a look, Loki resisted rolling his eyes and said, "I swear, by the All-Father, to never leave your side."

"Or lie." Thor reached out and grabbed his hand, squeezing it. "Promise me, please, Loki."

"I swear, by the All-Father, to neither ever leave the side of my brother, Thor Odinson, nor lie to him." Loki gave him a small smile. "Well, Your Highness? Does that suit you?"

Thor suddenly grinned, just as the sun above them broke through the cloud, "It suits me very well, brother." Their hands clasped tight as they fell back, laughing again, into the field.

Oh, Loki thought, once he had finally calmed his breathing and wiped the sweat from his brow. His oath – one he would have never broken had he remembered. How happy he had made Thor that day, he recalled now.

Perhaps this was why Thor had always trusted him, had always believed his truth.

This was why he suffered every time he was away from Thor – willingly or not.

He shoved back his covers and sprung from the bed. He had fallen asleep in his most hardy armor, a feat that, for most battle-experienced Asgardians, was an easier accomplishment than taking a drought of water.

Loki – who always wore this armor and merely cast illusions over it to appear in other clothes – ripped off his helmet and quickly stripped down to his simplest tunic and trousers. He removed all his weapons, even the hidden throwing knives up his sleeves and down his boots, and left them on the unmade bed.

Feeling exposed and vulnerable, Loki allowed his shoulders a single shiver before disappearing.

The Avengers' 'mansion,' as the Midgardians so proudly proclaimed, was nothing more to Loki – and Thor, he supposed – but a small summer retreat cabin. Regardless, though, of his disdain for the place, Loki had made himself familiar with the room placement when they had first made it their residence.

As such, it was with great ease that Loki was able to materialize in the correct room.

"Brother!" Thor cried, dropping a towel on the carpeted floor and beaming at Loki. "For what reason are you visiting so late at night?"

Loki ran his eyes over Thor's slightly damp hair and then down to the soft 'sweatpants' resting on his hips. Then down to the odd fabric footwear he was wearing. Thor noticed his focus and gestured at his feet. "The Captain has gifted me with slippers! Do they not look wondrously soft?"

Refraining from laughing, Loki turned his head back up to Thor and cleared his throat. "Do you know, Thor, why I have no longer call you brother?"

Thor's eyes widened slightly and he took a small step towards Loki – small for him, though he actually crossed a good portion of the rather small room.

Loki nodded his head slightly and added, "You are not my brother, and I cannot lie by calling you so." He paused for a moment, watching Thor's hands clench into fists at his side as the man's face turned away slightly. "To you. I cannot lie to you."

Thor turned back and he was smiling again, that large beam that he saved for when he felt true joy. "Loki! You have remembered?"

"I am ashamed to have forgotten," he replied, voice low.

Thor stepped towards him again, and then again, until the soft fabric – yes, Loki would admit it was soft – brushed against his bare toes. Loki stared into his eyes and then added, "I am sorry. For having forgotten. And for –"

Thor had his arms around Loki in an instant, squeezing him with all the strength that lifted Mjolnir. "I have forgiven you," Thor's voice rumbled in his ear, "It is all forgiven."

Loki gave Thor a slight squeeze back and then pushed him gently away. "Let me…" he began slowly, voice faltering. He fell to his knees. "Let me do this." His hands slid down Thor's sides to rest against his thighs.

Gazing down at him, with happiness and contentment shining in his eyes, Thor merely nodded and smiled at Loki.

Loki opened his mouth to speak.

"Hey, Thor!" The Man of Iron – devoid of his metal armor – appeared in the doorway, mouth open with what was no doubt a rude joke or comment. "Oh," he said, filling the single syllable with plenty of implication, eyes fixed on Loki's hands, leaning to rest on the door frame.

Loki shot him a glare and then examined his hands himself. While they were lying rather high on his brother's thighs, they were both fully clothed. The Stark man was incorrigible.

Thor cleared his throat and somehow managed to sound completely normal when he called, "Stark! Greetings on this fine night."

Loki kept his eyes fixed on Thor's toes, supported by his ridiculous footwear, as the human let out a chuckle. "Big guy, I know sleeping with the enemy has its perks, but let's not make this a thing. Since, though, I will admit to having done the same, I'll let you off this time."

Letting loose a laugh of his own, Thor answered with, "Your understanding has grown much since we first met."

"Hey, was that a subtle insult or –" came the protest. With a smirk, Loki turned and waved the door shut on the Midgardian's face.

Thor ran his fingers through Loki's hair gently and nudged him slightly in the shoulder.

Loki cleared his throat again and stared up at Thor again. "Thor Odinson, I swear, by my life, to neither ever leave your side willingly nor speak falsehood to you for as long as I shall live."

A smile broke out on Thor's face again and Loki could not help but smile back.

Grasping his forearms, Thor quickly lifted Loki to his feet and pulled him close once again. "You cannot imagine how long I have waited to hear you speak those words," he confessed, pressing his nose to the skin under Loki's ear.

Loki placed his arms around Thor's back and squeezed. "I have suffered, for forgetting them."

A warm kiss was pressed against his neck. "I know," Thor breathed against him, causing Loki to shiver. "Or, I thought I knew. I thought you had cast off your oath with some purpose in mind." He resumed his exploration of Loki's neck.

"Never," Loki replied, allowing an echo of his promise to fall into the word.

Thor pulled back and smiled again. "Come then, to bed with me. This promise needs to be sealed." He leaned forward and whispered, "Intimately."

Loki scoffed at him, but allowed himself to be gently maneuvered onto the bed, and quipped back, "You have spent too much time amongst these Midgardians."

Thor shifted him so his head was resting among the large crowd of pillows along the top of his bed. "Are you getting old?" Loki teased, "That your back is so sore you need such a soft bed?"

Baring his teeth at Loki, Thor yanked him up by one arm and shoved the pillows to the floor. "It was not I who decorated this room," he defended, allowing Loki to thump back onto the bare sheets.

Glancing around, Loki grimaced, "As I noted from the ridiculous quantities of lightning bolts depicted on your walls."

Pressing a kiss to Loki's forehead, Thor passed off the comment with a mutter of "Stark."

Before Loki could make a reply, Thor's lips were pressed against his, his hands finding Loki's and pressing them into the mattress.

This was no chaste kiss as when they were youths – Thor's tongue probed against Loki's lips and Loki shuddered when his illusion was swept aside. Thor paused slightly, and then, with the release of one hand, his thumb quickly swept up to brush along the row of scars from long ago, following the line of his lips both above and below.

"Loki," he whined against his lips, pressing soft kisses against them until Loki yielded and allowed him entrance.

He was dizzy in an instant, unprepared for the desperate plunder Thor made of his mouth. "For so long," Thor panted against his neck when he pulled away, "I have waited to do that for so long."

Loki kissed the sun-touched neck that was within reach. "Since you learned of my true nature?"

Thor pressed him into another kiss and, as he shifted slightly to slide a thigh between Loki's, admitted, "Since even before."

Blinking, Loki leaned his head back to catch Thor's blush-tinted cheeks. "You were a pervert," Loki accused, attempting to slither away from Thor.

Pressing down with his hips, Thor ground against Loki and pressed him to the mattress until he gave a soft moan and grew still. "It was never a desire I acted on," Thor defended, releasing one of Loki's hands to push his tunic up. "And the one desire I never planned to fulfill."

His palm settled on Loki's chest and he pressed a kiss against the side of Loki's mouth, pulling back to watch Loki's lips quest after him. "Still so cold," he commented, "But now, I know why. I thought you were ill when we were younger." His hand slid up to press against a nipple. Loki flinched slightly. With a small pause, Thor remarked thoughtfully, "Is this what you wanted – that night when we were younger and you shed your tears before me?"

Loki shuddered and attempted to pull away from the hand pinching at his chest.

"Oh," Thor said, tone playful, "It is Loki who is the pervert."

Leveling a glare at Thor, Loki lifted his thigh and began to rub it against his brother. "It is you who is so eager now."

Thor gave him a wolfish grin and leaned down to kiss him again. "Only because you are so beautiful."

They writhed against each other for a time, thighs pressing and hands exploring and mouths meeting, before Thor leaned back slightly to pull at Loki's tunic until it split under his hands.

"Barbaric," Loki commented, watching the tatters of fabric be deposited over the edge of the bed.

Thor smiled again and replied, "Do not speak your words before you have true reason." With that, he raised himself to his knees to flip Loki beneath him, one hand fixed on the small of his back to keep him pinned.

Loki ended up with a mouthful of sheet, which prevented him any reply until his trousers were stripped away and Thor's hand tangled in his lacings. With a quick tug, the leather snapped and Thor shoved the last piece of Loki's clothing down towards his knees. Loki squirmed until his hands were free from under his body and pushed away the offending fabric in his mouth. "Thor!" he gasped when he felt the rough stubble of a beard scraping along his back.

Thor chuckled and pushed Loki's legs apart with his knees. His free hand came to rest against Loki's lip as his other moved to play again with his chest. Loki let loose a soft gasp and Thor slipped his fingers in. Shooting a glare back at him, Loki tongued the fingers as if they were something far larger and warmer, and nearly smirked when he saw Thor's eyes widen with the connotation.

In response, Thor resumed his petting and pinching of Loki's warmed nipples and began to suck claiming marks into his shoulders. His hips circled against Loki's and Loki twitched back against the warm hardness confined beneath thin material behind him.

Thor suddenly pulled his fingers from Loki's mouth, inspecting them for a moment and giving a soft grunt of approval. Shifting his free hand down to Loki's own hardness, he shifted back to reach between them and trace along the cleft of Loki's ass.

Loki twitched and groaned as Thor began stroking him while circling the tight ring of muscle with his fingertips. "Thor," he gasped out at one particularly tight grip

Mouthing at the back of his neck, Thor pressed a single digit within Loki and slowly moved it until Loki was pressing back against his hand, attempting to impale himself on the second finger.

His hand moved faster on Loki's length as Thor scissored his fingers in Loki's tight warmth and listened to his soft gasps. He waited until Loki was jerking forward into his hand and then back onto his fingers to add a third. Loki whimpered slightly at the burn and stilled on the bed as he waited for Thor to reach deeper.

Loki gave a sudden cry when Thor pressed against the spot he was searching for and Loki groaned when Thor suddenly gripped tightly at the base of his shaft. "Thor," he muttered angrily, between other, far less pleasant names, through grit teeth.

"Loki," Thor replied tenderly, alternatively hooking and twisting his fingers. "I have waited for you for centuries – surely you can bear with mere minutes."

Jerking himself forward as if to slide Thor's hand along his length, Loki whimpered with the hand gripping him moved to his hip. "Thor," he said again, softer now. "Do not make me beg."

Thor laughed, voice echoing loud in the room, and removed his fingers. There was a slight rustle behind him, and Loki tilted his head to see Thor kneeling up to shove away the sweatpants. Shifting his hands to Loki's hips, he squeezed tightly with both hands and began to press his hips forward.

"There," Loki groaned, "There, there, there, come, yes, Thor." He pressed his forehead against the bed and squeezed his eyes shut. He braced himself on his forearms and attempted to thrust back against Thor's slow movements.

Biting along his neck, Thor commented, "Patience, Loki." He continued with the slow push until his thighs were pressing against Loki's. "There," he said, proudly, as he stroked along Loki's trembling sides. "Now I will give you the barbarian you asked for." He pulled back, hands still tight on Loki's hips.

Loki was flattened to his cheek with the first thrust, moan breaking free of his lips even though he had clenched his jaw. He scrabbled at the sheets as Thor continued with a quick pace, hips snapping forward and back and hands tugging Loki this way and that.

He finally gave up attempting to push himself back up after a particularly hard shove pulled another breathless gasp from his mouth and Loki merely moved his hand to stroke himself.

Thor's hand moved from his hip – pace barely faltering – and gripped at his fingers. Bringing them up to kiss, Loki nearly hissing at the stretch beneath another groan, Thor said, "You shall come with only this, just as I shall."

Loki slid his eyes shut in acquiescence, giving a small approving moan of agreement – he knew Thor was likely to cease all movement if Loki dared disagree. He groaned and squirmed and gasped and panted and writhed beneath Thor as he continued with his punishing pace.

His hips felt like they had flaming brands pressing into them, in the shapes of hands that could grip the mightiest hammer in all the nine realms, and the backs of his thighs stun with sweat and almost constant slapping contact. Flashes danced behind closed eyes with every thrust that reached deep within and brushed along that spot Loki both cursed and praised. Muttered words fell from his lips as he both praised Thor and cursed anything he could.

Thor's chuckle reverberated through his back as he pressed himself along Loki's length and began to rock within him. "You would curse me, would you not? If you were not honor-bound to only speak the truth?"

Loki growled and thrashed against the strong grip. He clenched down and snapped at the lips that sought his out. Thor slowed even more until Loki fell still beneath him and allowed a sloppy kiss. Smiling against his lips, Thor slid out, until Loki was clenching tightly for fear of him leaving, and slammed back in.

He performed the same motion again and again, until Loki burned inside and he whimpered and wriggled his shoulders with the need to release. "Soon," Thor murmured in his ear, "Soon, Loki, soon."

"Now," he growled back in reply, "Now, Thor, now!"

Thor shushed him and continued with his assault. Loki growled and groaned and panted and snapped beneath him now. Adding a small rotation of his hips as he slid out, Thor sped up his pace slightly. "Is this what you wanted?" he asked, finding an unmarked patch of skin along Loki's back and biting at it.

Loki gave off a long whine and shoved back with all the strength left in his arms.

Thor kissed the back off his head and then pressed lips to Loki's ear. "Now, then," he said, voice rumbling through Loki's entire body, "If you are so eager."

Loki, crying out loudly, shuddered as he came apart beneath forceful thrusts and biting teeth. Thor sighed in his ear and then groaned deeply as he followed suit.

Allowing Thor to spread himself out across Loki's back – hand pressed under his body to a place near his heart – Loki commented, between warm, messy kisses, "Speak of this to no one – especially Stark."

A/N: This thing was a monster to write, especially with referencing mythology _ Thanks for reading! Reviews always appreciated!

Disclaimer: Hopefully obvious none of the movie's/comic's/anything's plot or characters actually belong to me