This is unedited, so any and all mistakes/inaccuracies are mine. ;-;
I'm supposed to be updating something else but my mind wandered, whoops.
I think this ended up being rushed but anyway
asdfj;k um enjoy? /flee/
When he is old enough to understand the art of paper folding, Thor eagerly sits himself down in front of his brother and shows him a half-finished paper crane. "See, brother, you fold this here," he explains, "then this way, and down this way, and it's done!" He passes the messy, but completed, paper crane to a squirming Loki.
"What is the point of that?" the younger brother asks, clearly not as interested. He picks up the crane and tries to flap its wings.
Thor's eyes are bright. "One of the maids told me that if you manage to make a thousand, you get to make a wish, and it would come true no matter what!" With that, he flops onto his back, staring wistfully up at the ceiling of their bedroom. "You could have anything you wanted, brother. Can you imagine?"
The crane falls apart in Loki's hands by accident, and, seeing Thor's distressed look, Loki sighs and folds it back up again, following the creases that have already been made. "There," he says, presenting the repaired crane. Noticing the way Thor's eyes are shiny, he adds, "Don't cry, dummy."
Wiping his sleeve across his eyes, Thor grumbles, "I wasn't."
"If you say so."
"Will you help me, Loki?" Thor perches the paper crane onto his brother's raven locks of hair. "We can work together to make a thousand." He drags over an empty jar from their shelf, before taking the crane and dropping it into the container:
"That's impossible," Loki says. "It's not like your wish would come true in the end, anyway." But Thor begs and pleads until Loki finally caves in, though grudgingly.
"We can keep them all together in this jar." Thor babbles as he meanders about their playroom, searching for more paper. "We'll make a thousand in no time!"
They would never fit, Loki thinks, but he knows Thor will be far too stubborn to convince so.
And so they make paper cranes until their mother calls for them to go to sleep. As she kisses them each good night, Thor tells her about the jar they've stored carefully under their bed, already littered with several completed cranes. She bids them good luck with a smile before leaving their bedroom.
"Loki?" Thor murmurs drowsily as he shifts to latch onto his brother's back. Loki acknowledges him with a soft hum. "We have nine hundred eighty four to go."
. . .
When Thor is finally old enough to wander past the castle's gates, he initially refuses to go. "I don't want to go without Loki," he tells his father with a frown, but Loki isn't of age yet.
"Just go, Thor," the younger says with a slight roll of his eyes. "I'll be here, as always."
"Don't you want to go out there and see what it's like? Meet others?" the older brother persists.
"...All right. But once you're old enough, you must accompany me." Without a warning, he envelops his younger brother in a hug. "I'll be back soon, don't worry."
Loki manages a small laugh as he's lifted off the ground by an inch. "Of course you will. Where else could you possibly go?" He pulls away with a smile. "Just do not get into trouble."
Thor grins good-naturedly. "I will try to behave, brother," he says, blue eyes twinkling in mirth, before finally turning and setting off towards the opened gates.
Loki doesn't turned Thor's age until the next year; as he heads back inside with his father, he's surprised to find himself eagerly anticipating the day when he'll be able to join Thor. Meanwhile, though, he resolves to content himself with the royal library.
Later, in their room, Loki pulls out the jar from underneath the bed, grabs some pieces of paper, and folds. By the time Thor barrels in, breathless and excited to tell Loki about how he spent his day, his brother has curled up around the jar, fast asleep. Thor moves him to the bed, tucking him in as he's seen their mother do countless times.
Afterwards, he gathers up the paper cranes that Loki made, deposits them into the jar, and smiles when he counts thirty one more.
. . .
. . .
It isn't too soon afterwards that Loki discovers a whole section about magic in the royal library. There is seemingly an infinite amount of information contained in scrolls, books - the first that Loki plucks from the shelf is one on how to manipulate objects.
Each week, he takes it upon himself to finish a single text. It isn't that hard, he finds in delight, and the magic sparks off of his fingers almost naturally.
By the end of the third week, he has learned how to make objects float. He is limited to items light in weight - papers, quills, books - and he is excited to show his brother what he can do. He pays Thor a visit and makes a goblet dance around the room.
"That is fantastic, brother!" Thor exults, eyes following the magicked thing through the air.
Loki beams, chest swelled with pride - but there is something in his brother's demeanor that puts him off slightly. He waves his hand; the goblet rolls back onto the dresser. "Is that not enough to impress you?" he asks, worry lining his features. The pride ebbs away, replaced by disappointment. Not in Thor, but in himself.
"No, of course not," Thor is quick to say, shaking his head. "It is just that - well, you have not been sparring with me lately. I wondered as to why, and it seems that now I've found my answer."
Loki watches the goblet slowly stop, the gold glinting in the light. "Yes," he admits, "I have been busy reading." Part of him knows where this is going: Should he become advanced with magic and choose it as his weapon, it would not be considered as honorable.
But his brother surprises him. "Someday, we should see how I fare against your skill," he says with a teasing lilt.
"We should," Loki returns, but the enthusiasm has died down a considerable amount.
Before he leaves, Thor stops him, taking his hands and dropping a pile of little cranes onto his palm. "Seventeen more," he says, eyes bright, and Loki can't help but smile when he later puts them into the jar.
. . .
Loki stops frequenting the magic section of the library. "Ah, you have lost interest in the subject, dear Prince?" the librarian asks as she shelves the scrolls, and Loki only hurries out.
That year, he finally gets to venture outside the castle's walls.
"You must accompany me to the marketplace, Loki," says Thor as they mount their horses. The sky is bright overhead, and the breeze evens out the heat. "There are people I would like you to meet."
Said people are three boys named Hogun, Fandral, Volstagg, and, curiously, a girl named Sif. "Pleasure to meet you," Loki says warmly, shaking each of their hands. He is usually indifferent to making new friends, but these are Thor's friends, and that is enough of a reason for Loki to at least try.
They are awkward from the beginning. There is apparently a spot on the roofs that they like to occupy and talk on, and Sif takes the lead in scaling the walls. "Is there no ladder?" Loki hesitates in going after them, but Thor only laughs and pulls him up.
Loki struggles to pull himself onto the roof - he isn't, after all, as physically strong as his brother - and finally heaves himself up, to be greeted by the sound of barely stifled giggles. He blinks, eyes flickering up in confusion and slight hurt, but the others simply avert their eyes.
"My friends, you must be patient with my brother, for this is only his first time out of the castle," Thor chides. He means well, but it doesn't stop the others from casting Loki looks that vary from amusement to derisiveness.
Loki doesn't stay long; he tells them that he isn't feeling too well, that he will head back to the castle early. Thor lets him go (hesitantly, with concern) and as Loki maneuvers himself back to the ground, he thinks he hears Fandral make a remark, to which the others laugh at. He even hears Thor spare a chuckle.
The next day, he returns to the library and resumes where he had left off in his self-teaching of magic, nearly a month earlier. Thor bursts in to try and drag him back to the marketplace, back to the others. For the first time in his life, Loki lies to his brother and tells him he still isn't feeling so well.
When Thor has left him once more (almost too easily), Loki sighs and slumps forward in his seat. Next to his elbow, there is a pile of paper. Loki stares at it for a few seconds, before grabbing a sheet, tearing it into a square, and beginning to fold it.
Thor doesn't come back until dusk; when he does, Loki doesn't say a word and simply walks past him with an armful of cranes.
. . .
In the years that follow, Loki finds himself drifting apart from his brother. The jar gets closer to being filled halfway, but he could only make so much progress by himself.
Why do I even continue to bother with something so trivial? a part of him says.
One afternoon, in his bedroom while Thor is off gallivanting with his friends again, Loki is struck with an idea. He brings out a sheet of paper and wills it to move; it complies. Several familiar folds later, a paper crane sits on the desk, completed without him having to lift a single finger.
A few seconds later, he discovers that he is able to manipulate several things at a time.
Invisible hands make the folds, and even more toss them into the jar. When he finally tires, he has filled an entire jar and begun to fill a second.
You are wasting your time, a part of him says. Another whispers, I would wish for my brother back.
. . .
Three hundred and four.
. . .
Time passes; Loki loses count of how much. He spends his time developing his magic as Thor goes on hunts with his friends.
Some nights, Loki finds himself wishing for his brother to return safely. Some nights, his wish is for Thor's friends to disappear, so that it would be just him and his brother again. (Most nights, he wishes for Thor to remember the little paper cranes that he himself taught Loki about.)
The people of Asgard begin to call his brother the golden child; Loki knows this as he makes one of his rare trips into the market. He is gathered ingredients for a spell when he first hears a woman coin the term.
He shapeshifts into a small boy, a neat trick he's recently learned, and listens in to a gypsy recounting one of his brother's adventures. "And what of his brother?" he asks out of curiosity.
The woman actually seems to forget for a second, gathering her thoughts a few seconds later to begin telling about the lesser known prince.
"But I want to hear about Thor and how he defeated the bilgesnipe!" another boy protests. Other children clamor in agreement, and so the woman is forced to acquiesce.
Having heard enough, Loki rises, waiting until there's no one in sight before returning to his original form. There, in the middle of the path back to the castle, he clutches his basket of ingredients to his chest and tries not to weep.
. . .
Thor's voice takes him by surprise. The five-or-so paper cranes drop from the air, only half finished, as Loki's concentration wanes. He stares at Thor. "What?"
"What is this?" There is something akin to disappointment in Thor's expression. He kneels down to pick up one of the cranes, studying it in his hands. "Have you forgotten how to fold them by hand, Loki?"
Have you forgotten about this? Loki wants to snarl.
But then Thor, naive, overbearing, sentimental Thor, covers Loki's hands with his and starts to fold a crane with him, his larger fingers warm around Loki's own.
Loki counts the seconds by his heavy heartbeats, breath hitched. A hand-made crane drops to the desk. He feels Thor smile into his hair, hears him murmur, "No magic necessary."
The moment is over far too quickly, interrupted by the sound of someone shouting "Thor!" down the hallway. "My friends," Thor explains as he steps back, looking apologetic. "I came to see if you would like to...spend time with us." He says this hesitantly. Loki isn't exactly subtle with his avoidance of the Warriors Three and Sif. Besides, he is sure that the feeling is mutual.
"I have fifty six more to make before I reach five hundred," he answers.
Thor smiles, but it's almost sad. Unsurprised. "Join us when you are finished?" he inquires hopefully, and Loki nods in another lie.
He isn't sure, Loki realizes later as he asks their mother if he might have his own separate room, when it changed from I wish I had my brother back to I wish he would look at me the way I look at him.
. . .
Five hundred and twenty six.
. . .
"I love you," Thor says with a joyous laugh, throwing his arms around his brother in a crushing hug. His newly-gained weapon, a sturdy looking hammer named Mjolnir, sits beside his feet, momentarily ignored as Thor shows his gratitude.
"And I, you," Loki returns with a bittersweet smile.
. . .
In the week prior to the coronation, Loki sees in Thor what no one else seems to - save for, perhaps, their father. What prompts him to develop the plan of sabotage is purely because he knows Thor isn't ready, not just yet. It wasn't in his foresight that Thor would get banished.
He doesn't dare go to Heimdall to ask how his brother fares; no, he instead consults his scrolls, allowing brief images of his brother's well-being to flash in his mind.
He begins to regret his actions and wishes that he could have his brother home, that he didn't go so far with his plans; at the same time, he wants to be as far away from Thor as possible.
The incident of Jotunheim is fresh in his memory. He looks down at his arm and imagines it turning blue again. Something in the back of his mind tells him that if he is able to make it reality, not just his imagination. Something tells him that he can will his skin to turn back to that disgusting color once more, but he doesn't dare confirm his own worst fears.
And when it comes to him, he has already figured it out (just waiting for confirmation, like some sick patient who knows they are about to die, simply waiting for the doctor to tell them so). It's not surprise that overtakes him, but another unnamed feeling, awful, clawing, twisting in his heart.
(If he barely stood a chance to be with Thor before, he certainly has no chance now.)
So when Odin collapses, he calls for help - the servants take the king of Asgard away to a healer, while Loki resigns himself to his room. When the door is shut, effectively sealing him off from all prying eyes, the armor he has layered carefully around himself crumbles off and then he's howling, swiping his arm blindly across the desk. The jars skitter off the edge, fly into the wall, and crack into pieces, the paper cranes dropping to the floor like birds suddenly deemed flightless in the sky.
It isn't until he's on his knees, scrambling to pick up the cranes again, that the tears finally roll down his cheeks. He dumps out the contents of the biggest jar he has, some herb he's been saving for some years, and packs the paper cranes into it, some of their wings frosting over when his fingers make contact.
. . .
He distances himself from Thor as much as possible, feigning hate whenever necessary, letting venom drip into his words as he tells Thor's friends that he cannot bring him back, putting on a mask of sympathy when he goes to visit Thor.
Each little lie that spills forth from his mouth hurts just a little, and Loki wants nothing more than to summon Thor back to Asgard, hand over the throne, resume his place beside(below under behind inferior to) Thor.
He does not tell him of his true lineage. Heavens forbid Thor to ever find out that he used to sleep in the same bed as a Jotun.
. . .
When he lets go, he thinks, eight hundred eighty one. Then, as he plummets, I'm sorry.
. . .
There is pain. Loki wishes for the memories to dissipate.
Retrieving the Tesseract proves to be easier than he first thinks. Mortals, he thinks with some derisiveness as a single touch of his staff turns them against each other.
At night, while the humans work, Loki watches himself unravel in front of a mirror, peeling the leather and armor and Aesir skin away, until all that's left is the Jotun monster that's underneath.
. . .
"Give up the Tesseract. Give up this poisonous dream. You come home."
He shakes his head, laughs. "I don't have it."
Whether he speaks of the Tesseract or a home, he isn't sure.
. . .
When he presses the button and watches his not-brother fall (much like he had, what seemed like thousands of years ago), a little part of him dies. He thinks back on the cranes; realizes he can't remember how to fold them.
. . .
Loki has seen it coming. Everything, he reasoned, would eventually come down to this: him against Thor, finally being forced to confront what he has been trying to avoid (destroy eviscerate discard forget). Thor's grip is tight, his voice pained and desperate.
The knife finds its mark in the chink of Thor's armor, and then, in one last grandiose lie, one last attempt to estrange himself from the one he loves so much:
"Sentiment," Loki utters, and smiles, smiles despite the single goddamn tear that manages to escape.
. . .
The muzzle is cold, and the chains against his wrist even moreso. He can feel the weight of the stares of the onlookers as he is led down to the dungeons and, if he could, he would have them all turned into croaking amphibians.
The guard only grunts when he shoves Loki into his cell - not that Loki needs to be forced to. Resignation has almost completely settled, along with the promises of a punishment to be determined the next morning. He hopes for a death sentence. It would almost be a relief, in a strange, twisted way. At least then he will be free of the burden of the way he feels.
He is lying on the scratchy cot when his cell door is opened. As soon as he sees his not-brother step in, Loki feels his composure rip itself to shreds and then all he wants to do is shriek and lunge and cry and hurt in an animalistic fit to get away from Thor, away from the bane of his existence, away from the reason his heart has blackened to the point where no amount of redemption can bring him back to light.
(Away from the only person that's ever made him feel loved.)
Thor's hands are careful. He removes the muzzle with a gentleness that Loki didn't know he possessed, and the first thing that tumbles out of the Trickster's mouth when the cool air hits his cracked lips is, "The cranes?"
The thunderer is wearing a tunic; Loki can easily see the cuts and bruises that litter his skin. His eyes linger on the bandages around Thor's waist, visible through the thin fabric, as Thor reaches back and produces two jars. Both are filled to the brim with tiny paper cranes.
"I finished them," Thor says quietly, "the following nights after your...fall." He sits next to Loki on the cot, handing him the unopened jar. "I counted and made sure to stop at nine hundred ninety nine."
Loki laughs, humorless. "You fool, why did you not choose to already finish what we started years ago?"
"I wanted you to have the wish." Thor reveals a square sheet of paper, handing it to Loki. And then, it's almost as if they are the two little boys in the playroom again. "I dare say," he continues, helping Loki to fold, fingers expertly guiding, re-discovering once familiar creases, "I have everything I could ever wish for, right here."
"Me in chains?"
"No, simply you. As king of Asgard, I will have you pardoned, and come morning, you will be out of this bondage. I will have you by my side and we will rule together, just like we used to say when we were children. But for now I have you, and I will be damned if I ever let you go again."
"Sentiment," Loki rasps, but his voice cracks.
Then Thor cups Loki's cheek and draws him near, pressing their lips together in a brief, chaste kiss.
There are far too many things that need to be thought through, to be sorted out, and this might just even be the last time they'll ever be together again, before the inevitable morning, but Loki can't, won't think about that, not yet, not when he still has a wish.
(But then again, maybe he has everything he could ever wish for, too.)
"No, Loki," Thor finally says, voice soft, and the thousandth paper crane slips from Loki's fingers to fall into the jar, "truth."