A/N: I tend to weave a tangled web of a whole new world when I write for a new series. I have a bad habit of it, and Gabrielle Day is gracious enough to allow me my druthers on that particular bit. This is, as the others, connected to our series of Thor and Loki fics, and it introduces a villain that will be working his/her/its (no spoilers!) way through the web of stories. This is pre-Thor movie, and I think we decided they are the equivalent of upper teens. Co-written with Gabrielle Day, of course.
Just a little background on this, it actually sparked from a Loki twitter feed that I follow (who knew twitter could be a source of inspiration?) It said: "#WhenIWasAKid I went through a time in which I accidently manifested my literally had to protect me against myself at night." I just about died, texted Gabrielle Day, and it was decided that this would have to be tossed into our queue of stories. So, thank you, Lokiluscious whoever you are! =P
Darkness Before Dawn
Thor hummed happily to himself as he made his way down the hallways of the palace back to his bed chambers. The lamps were lowly lit, and there wasn't a soul in sight. It was one of Thor's favorite times to roam the place, when there was no one to chide him or remind him of lessons or practices or to make nice with someone's daughter (usually his mother's prodding with that uncomfortable you'll-need-a-queen-one-day glare) or someone's son (usually his father's insistence with his stern you'll-need-allies-to-be-a-good-king look) or other nonsense. He frowned, patting his hip and realized his sword sheath was empty. "Damn." He muttered. He'd have to go back for it in the morning.
Rounding the corner, still humming to himself, he stopped short in surprise to see his brother sitting on the floor outside of his door, asleep and propped against the door frame looking for all the world like he'd been there for quite some time. "Loki?" he called, surprise overriding the thought that he might be able to sneak up on the clever one for once.
Loki startled, green eyes blinking sleepily awake. As Thor drew closer he had a better view in the shafts of moonlight from the window of his brother. His face was drawn, there were dark circles under both eyes and he looked very much like he were trying to come up with something that he couldn't quite grasp. It was a very funny look on the quick-witted mischief-maker's face.
"What are you doing here?" Thor asked, tilting his head to one side.
Loki stumbled to his feet, the stiffness in his limbs attesting to the length that he had been sitting there. "I... What are you doing out here?"
"Coming back from Sif's," Thor answered without hesitation.
"I didn't need to know that," Loki grumbled.
"But you asked."
"And now I wish that I hadn't. Good night, Thor. I think I'll take my leave now."
Thor easily stopped him by grabbing his arm and pulling him back. "No. What are you doing out here? You've been asleep in my doorway. How long?"
Loki was less than pleased. "It matters not. I simply lost track of time. My most humble apologies to disturb your return to bed." He tried to pull away, but Thor refused and pulled him back again.
"No. First of all, you are not in possession of humble apologies, dear brother. Second of all, you don't lose track of time unless you're in the library. So, my question stands. What in the realms are you doing asleep on the floor outside of my room? You are a prince of Asgard, are you not?"
"Yes." Loki grumbled.
"You have been given rooms, have you not?"
"Are they occupied?"
"Yes." Loki said slyly. He grinned at Thor's surprised face. "What, this surprises you?"
Thor nodded. "Certainly. You are clearly not doing things correctly if your room is occupied without you in it."
Loki cursed his sleep-deprived mind. "Then I best be off," he managed and was pulled back again.
"I'm listening. Yes?" his younger brother replied with a charming smile. It was that smile that their mother said could win him anything he desired and often did.
"You're not leaving until you tell me what's going on."
The younger prince gave a sharp tug, not feeling his brother's grip budge. He might have gotten the cleverness of the family, but Thor most certainly received the vast majority of the strength. He sighed, resigning himself. "You must promise not to laugh," he mumbled quietly.
"And can't we move inside? I really would prefer not to have this discussion in the hallway."
"Ah. Sleeping in the hallway is a fit activity for a prince of Asgard, but conversations with one's brother are not." Thor said, nodding sagely.
Loki punched him lightly in the arm with his free hand. "Something like that, yes."
Thor grinned and opened his door, ushering his brother inside and shutting it behind him. The lamps in Thor's chamber were also set low, bathing the room in a soft golden light. Thor flopped unceremoniously onto the red comforter that covered his bed. "Well then?" he prompted.
Loki sat on the edge of the bed and sighed heavily. "I am making too much of this. I should just go."
Thor groaned. "Oh, come on, Loki. I already promised I would not laugh. Come! What troubles you so that you have taken to the halls in the dead of night?"
He glanced back, the shadows casting an eerie light on his pale face. "Do you remember when we were small and I used to have those horrible nightmares?"
"Of course. You always ended up in my bed crying."
"I was not crying."
Loki waved his hand as if it didn't matter. "Regardless, you remember the incident."
Thor nodded, trying to stay on topic as best as he could. It was late and he and Sif had been dinking, which always led to an easily distracted prince of Asgard.
"They're back, or, rather, they are more intense than they were."
Thor sighed heavily. "Dreams still frighten you, brother?"
"You said you wouldn't laugh!"
"I am not laughing. Merely...observing." Thor said, unable to hide a smile.
Loki reddened and stood. "Telling you was clearly a mistake on my part. I'll amuse you no further."
Thor reached out and grabbed his wrist, tugging him back into sitting on the bed. "No, no, no, Loki, please don't leave." the blond god rolled onto his back, so that he could look up at his brother with his most repentant face. He leaned his head against the side of Loki's knee. "Forgive me? You know how easily I can get carried away. How long have you been having these dreams again?"
Loki raised a thin eyebrow at his brother's beseeching, almost innocent expression. It was a very good face, one that Loki would almost fall for, if he fell for that sort of thing. And the most unfortunate part was that the expression was genuine. Thor was never anything but genuine. "I don't think they ever fully went away, but now they are stronger. I have read of sorcerer's who can project their dreams into reality. I...I think that may be what is happening, accidentally. They certainly do not feel like dreams."
"Feel?" Thor asked, suddenly sitting up to look at his brother closely. "Have they harmed you?" This stiffness in the younger god's movements now caused him worry as he reached out, hands ready to probe for sign of injury before Loki slinked just out of his reach.
"It's nothing," he murmured.
"Have they harmed you?" Thor repeated more forcefully. The look he received answered his question for him. "Why didn't you come to me before this? I could have-"
"Could have what, Thor? Rushed in to save me? I seem to be doing this to myself, and I dare say you'd be no match for this."
"Well, they're just your illusions, aren't they?"
"Yes... and no. My illusions can't cause actual harm. They're not solid, but this..." He sighed, falling so that he was lying on the bed. "I haven't slept well in a fortnight."
Thor propped himself on one elbow, wishing greatly to push at his brother to see if he was hiding any greater injury, but knowing he'd get whacked or have to stop Loki from leaving for his trouble. He frowned. "Why haven't you come to me before this? Even if there is nothing I can do, you could have told me."
Loki was surprised by the hurt in his brother's voice. "Oh don't look so sad about it. I don't tell you everything. I am allowed to have some parts of my life that are my own, just as you do." the green eyed boy said.
"I have nothing to hide."
"Maybe you should." Loki said wryly.
"What happens, when you, what is it? When you project these dreams?" Thor asked.
"Mostly shadows. Large and looming... faceless, but you know there's something horrible behind it. Everything in the room goes cold."
"Have you tried a sleeping drought?"
"No, that wouldn't do."
Thor rolled his eyes and took in the image of his exhausted brother. "And you say that my pride makes me foolish," he grumbled.
"Not everything is about pride," Loki responded quietly.
Thor sat for a moment, thinking. "Well, if you won't take something, then perhaps a drink of wine will help ease you to sleep." He was on his feet before Loki could stop him, moving out of the main bedchambers and after something.
"It's not the falling asleep that is the issue," Loki called after him. "It's what comes for me once sleep takes hold," he murmured to the empty room, green eyes flickering back and forth to each wall and each shadow that resided there.
Thor reappeared, two goblets in hand and gave one to Loki. "Here. A bit of the best wine in Asgard will help."
Loki seriously considered declining the cup, but shrugged and accepted. Thor took a long drink from his and Loki followed suit. He watched Thor move around the bed to place his cup down on a table. "You can stay here tonight, brother." Thor said with a grin. "I will slay your shadows."
Loki rolled his eyes and was alarmed when the room kept spinning after the motion. He tried to stand and lurched precariously to one side, nearly spilling his wine.
Thor took the cup from him. "Are you all right?" Thor asked.
Loki glared up at him. "No. You wouldn't be that clever."
"What are you talking about, Loki? What's wrong with you?" Thor asked.
Loki tried to stand again but collapsed back to the bed, his head sliding traitorously towards the pillow.
"Must be that lack of sleep catching up with you." Thor said easily. "You don't know what you've done, you idiot. This will make it harder to-" Loki's warning was lost as he drifted off to sleep.
Thor grinned sat on the bed next to him. "You'll thank me later." he promised.
He tried to stay awake, really he did, but the lateness of the night and his earlier rounds of drinking with the goddess of war began to pull at him and Thor resigned himself to stretching out on the bed next to his brother. He missed this, sometimes, those innocent moments when they weren't bickering or insulting each other as siblings no longer in youth and yet not quite to adulthood were wont to do. He wasn't sure when they had begun acting so, but sometime – perhaps in the last couple of centuries or so – Loki had begun to sink back from their usual friends. Well, Thor's usual friends, but surely his baby brother knew that he was always welcome with them. Thor sighed as he felt sleep tugging his eyes closed.
Thor awoke some time later to the sound of struggles. He blinked his eyes open, trying to remember why there was someone else in his bed. Loki. Loki had come to him for help. Blue eyes latched onto the form of his brother. The younger god's face was contorted as if he were fighting with all his might against something and he let out a pained whimper in his sleep.
Thor pulled himself up on his elbows, frowning at the pain in his brother's expression. Loki never showed himself to be in pain, or any kind of hurt. Thor could make him irritated and angry -and did, often- and he could on occasion be great fun. But he never seemed hurt even when Thor was certain he had gone too far. He reached out and brushed dark hair out of Loki's face. His younger brother whimpered again and Thor took his shoulder. "Loki." he called gently. "Loki, you're dreaming. Wake up."
There was a sudden chill in the room and Loki let out a small cry, grasping at Thor's arm. The blond let his eyes travel up to the wall behind his brother to find a shadow there that did not belong to either of them. It loomed, angry and menacing, but still relatively flat against the wall.
"Loki! I believe you now! Wake up!" Thor nearly shouted, watching the darkened creature take a more physical form as it peeled itself from the wall. It seemed to blink, ruby eyes staring intently and it reached out with a shadow-dagger aimed right for him. Thor gave his brother one final, hard shake and Loki's green eyes opened and he gasped awake.
For a split second Thor felt relief, but his quick eye caught the shadow still in motion. He dragged Loki back as the shadow dagger slashed down at them. "Loki?" Thor asked, concern lacing his voice.
"I warned you, but you never listen!" Loki gasped.
"Well you're awake now, make it stop."
"You're still not listening." Loki growled.
"How do you kill a shadow?" Thor asked.
Loki blinked, the last of the sleeping draught wearing away. "That's actually the right question. Light! We need light!"
Thor went for the lamp first, but the shadow caught wind of his movements and he was tossed across the room as easily as a child throwing a ball. The tumbled once before landing hard and Loki called his name. The only response he received was a choking sound and he could just make out the shadow's wispy hands throttling his elder brother. "Thor!"
"Lamp!" the elder choked out.
It was out. The fire had burned too low as they slept and he would need to spark it. The young sorcerer looked around for anything he could use.
"Any time, Loki!" Thor yelled as best he could, trying to fight something he could not.
Loki took a deep breath. He had never done well with fire magic, but there didn't seem to be any other way. Quietly, quickly he murmured words that he never bothered with. A puff of smoke was all that he was rewarded with and he felt the panic begin to set in.
Loki could hear his brother's strangled breathing and he tried again, forcing his fear into focus. The lamp ignited, almost too much and Loki slumped back partially in exhaustion and partially in relief. "It worked." he whispered.
Thor groaned from the floor, rolling onto his back.
Loki went to him. "Are you all right?" he asked, fingers going to his brother's neck. The skin there was already bruising.
He gasped for several more moments and they were silent until he gathered both his breath and his wits about him. "When you said... I didn't expect... What was it? What do you dream about, brother?"
Loki's gaze fell to the floor. "Horrible things," he confessed quietly. "Are you hurt badly?"
"No, I'm alright. What took you so damn long?"
"You know I'm no good with fire magic and the lamp had gone out completely."
"With all your many talents, why does it have to be that one you lack in?"
"Or keeping my dreams to myself?"
"Or that too." Thor sighed, sitting up and rubbing his neck gingerly. His skin was cold to his own touch and he couldn't stop himself from shivering. He glanced at his brother. The younger prince looked exhausted and dejected as he sat cross-legged on the floor, eyes trained on some fascinating spot on the rug and unable to meet his elder's gaze. Thor reached a hand out to Loki's shoulder, causing the other to jump slightly. "No more sleeping drought, is that so?"
A hint of a smile came to Loki's face. "That would be for the best."
"Stay here for the rest of the night anyway. Dawn is still hours away and I do not wish you to be alone should these things come again." Thor said warily.
The lamp flickered and both brothers froze, watching the light as if entranced. "Surely the shadows would not overcome light." Loki murmured.
"Your shadows could." Thor said.
Thor lit a second and then a third lamp, and finally a candle just to make himself feel better. They sat themselves back on the bed and the room seemed ablaze with light for the briefest of moments and the candle snuffed out on its own. "We could sleep in the hall?" Thor offered. "That seemed to work for you."
"I think they follow me," Loki murmured. His eyes focused suddenly on something just behind his brother, causing Thor to blink in question and then to spin around so quickly he nearly fell off the bed. He found nothing there but one of his lamps, still ablaze, and Loki huffed a laugh.
"That's not funny!" Thor roared, taking a swing that his younger brother easily avoided.
"Your face was rather priceless," Loki assured him. The smile remained even as Thor grumbled until he felt something snake around his bare foot. Loki looked just in time to feel himself slide off the bed, his brother's name on his lips.
A/N: I just wanted to take a moment to really thank our regular reviewers (as well as those that are new, too, we love you as well!). I think one of the toughest things as a writer, at least for me, is the fact that I might put all the work in the world into my novel or my short, and if I plan to publish it I really don't feel comfortable posting it anywhere, therefore I don't *really* know if it's any good. Everyone here leaves such kind words of encouragement and praise that it always makes my day (and Gabrielle Day's as well, so I'll speak for her =P). I've actually run into people here and there - very rarely, but it has happened - that have read Gabrielle Day's and my works over the years, and somehow the topic of conversation turns to it and it's that fantastic moment when you can put a face to a reader and a face to the writer. We really do adore you all. Thank you for your time and your response. It's always a brilliant moment in our day!