Desperate Times, Desperate Measures

This is essentially a retelling of a classic story from Norse Mythology, featuring Thor, Loki, and Frost Giants, but rewritten with the characters as they are in the Marvel films, Thor and The Avengers.

This story is set before the events of Thor, before Thor and Loki become enemies. I imagine them as being the equivalent of human 18 or 19- year olds. Thor is a headstrong warrior and Loki is a clever, playful, mischievous master of magic, but at this stage in their lives, they're still best friends, and very close to each other. Neither has ever considered the possibility that they might not be brothers.

Frigga is not in the comics or films, as far as I know, but she's in the original myth, so I kept her.

(And I know that no one can lift Mjolnir apart from Thor, but you know...it had to be stolen for the purposes of the myth. So let's just imagine that it's just really, really heavy.)

This is the first thing I've ever written, so please don't judge me too harshly! Comments, reviews and constructive feedback eagerly welcomed. Hope you like it.

Thor stormed through the halls of Odin's palace, clenching and unclenching his fists as he went. It was the early hours of the morning, and assorted Aesir were beginning to blearily stumble out of their rooms, only to hastily dart back in again to get out of the way of the God of Thunder. Thor was currently striding along with a face that clearly implied that anyone who slowed him down, talked to him or looked at him in the wrong way would receive a lightning bolt to the head in return shortly afterwards. He stalked up the stairs to his brother's chambers, bursting in without knocking and taking the heavy oak door clean off its hinges. "LOKI!" he yelled, standing in the doorway, fists still clenched.

The God of Mischief didn't move from where he was lying on his bed, eyes closed, his hands behind his head and his ankles neatly crossed, the picture of relaxed calmness. He was also fully dressed, always having been an early riser, but had clearly lain down quickly and not reacted to Thor's entry purely with the intention of irritating his brother.

It worked.

"You hollered, dear brother?" Loki said smoothly, still not opening his eyes.

"Mjolnir is missing. I woke up this morning and it was gone from my bedside," Thor replied through gritted teeth. "What do you know of this?"

Loki opened his eyes and sat up, cross-legged, on the bed, a look of childlike innocence on his face. Only a small glint of amusement in his eyes betrayed the fact that he was secretly rather enjoying his brother's predicament. "I'm hurt, brother. You think I would take your most treasured possession?"

"Of course you would! You are the God of Mischief, are you not?"

"True. I might take it, but only as a prank. And you know I would always give it back. After all, you and Mjolnir are our main line of defence in preventing Asgard from being overrun by giants."

"Exactly. Asgard is in growing danger every moment that I do not have it. So GIVE IT BACK."

"Thor, even if I wanted to, I couldn't. I cannot lift Mjolnir, you know that. As you've delighted in telling me for so many years, I am either unworthy or 'just too skinny' to hold the hammer, am I not?"

Thor blinked. In his anger, he had actually forgotten Mjolnir's main attribute. His rage suddenly began to drain away, only to be replaced by confusion. Since waking and discovering his weapon gone, he had thought of his silver-tongued, mischievous, thieving joker of a brother as the only suspect. The realization that Loki had to be innocent was slightly relieving but also aggravating. Now he had no idea whatsoever where Mjolnir was. Thor walked over to the bed and slumped down on its edge, his shoulders hunched. Loki deftly uncrossed his legs and swung them round so that he was neatly perched next to his despondent older brother. He glanced sideways at Thor's dejected face out of the corner of his eye and sighed deeply, looking up at the ceiling before finally deciding to take pity on his brother. He leaned closer to Thor, patting his brother reassuringly on the back.

"If you want, I'll go and search for your Hammer. I'm sure Freyja will lend me her falcon-skin in aid of such a good cause. I'll cover more ground faster with it, so I'll be able to find it soon, I'm certain of it. We'll get Mjolnir back."

Thor looked down at his little brother's uncharacteristically serious face and smiled gratefully. "Thank you, brother. I appreciate you helping me like this. I owe you a debt."

"Yes, you do," replied Loki, hopping lightly off the bed and ambling over to the door, which was still lying on the floor from Thor's furious entry to the room. "Once you get that oversized mallet back, your first job can be using it to fix my door. Before you resume your daily pastimes of showing off and bashing other thick-skulled-cretins like Fandral and Volstagg on the head with it."

Thor grinned, despite himself, and lunging for one of Loki's spellbooks on the bedside table, he turned and hurled it at Loki's head. The agile trickster dodged out of the way easily and looked, mock-scandalized, at the book, lying open on the floor. "You warriors! Savages, the lot of you. Who could treat a book like that? No respect for literature…." He skittered out of the door, grinning, as Thor hurled a metal plate at his head instead.

"That's better. Thank you," he called, vanishing from sight, and Thor could hear the smile in his voice and his laughter echoing all the way down the staircase. The God of Thunder chuckled to himself, despite his worry, and began to follow his brother down the corridor.

"Freyja! Good morning, I do hope you're well. Your hair looks lovely today. I need to borrow your falcon-skin," Loki called, bounding into the Goddess's rooms, beaming a dazzling, toothy grin at her.

Freyja sighed, a slight smile on her face. Everyone liked Loki. He was charming and funny. But an abundance of pranks played on the Aesir in the past meant that although he made everyone (except Heimdall the gatekeeper) laugh, and they were all fairly fond of him, all of the Gods viewed everything he said and did with a certain degree of suspicion.

"Why do you need the falcon skin?" she asked, struggling to look stern. Which was difficult, since Loki was looking so infectiously gleeful.

"Thor's lost Mjolnir." He replied, his grin growing and an evil glint appearing in his eyes.

"I HAVE NOT LOST IT, YOU LYING, SILVER-TONGUED WEASEL! IT WAS STOLEN!" came a booming voice from down the corridor, and Thor stalked through the open door, glowering at Loki. The dark-haired God chuckled quietly as he shrewdly realized that the way his brother was holding his hand and the way that his arm was twitching suggested that Thor was absent-mindedly holding an imaginary Mjolnir for comfort. Coughing to disguise his laughter, he turned back to face Freyja.

"As I was saying, Thor has lost…"

"STOLEN."

"Thor has lost…"

"I will still punch you, despite your offer of help, brother. "

"Mjolnir has been misplaced."

Thor took a threatening step towards Loki.

"Fine! Mjolnir was stolen this morning."

Freyja's eyes widened. "By whom?"

"We do not know yet," said Thor. "Can Loki borrow your falcon skin so that he may search for it?"

"Of course," replied Freyja, taking the skin down from the wall and holding it out to Loki, snatching it back as he reached out for it. "I want it back when you're finished though! Understand?"

"Naturally," replied Loki innocently, plucking the falcon skin from her arms and wrapping it around himself. "I honestly do not understand why people always seem to expect me to make off with their possessions."

Freyja and Thor both gave sarcastic, insincere, mildly hysterical laughs. Loki stared at them, wide-eyed, arms folded. "Charming. It's truly heartwarming to know that you are trusted." One corner of his mouth twitched in a mischievous smile and he took a few steps backwards, gathering the skin around him, before sprinting at the golden railings of the balcony and neatly swan-diving over them. Freyja and Thor rushed to the railing in time to see an enormous gold-and-black falcon plummeting towards the ground, leveling off at the last second, barrel-rolling and speeding off across the plains of Asgard towards the Bifrost. Freyja patted Thor on the back soothingly.

"It will be fine, Thor. Loki will find Mjolnir. He knows how worried you are."

Thor glanced at her, then scoffed, puffing his chest out. "Worried? I am not worried. A warrior does not worry. I merely look forward to meeting whomever stole Mjolnir so that I may send them down to Niflheim in return. I am not worried."

Freyja raised her eyebrows, nodding. "Of course. My mistake." She glanced down at Thor's hands. More specifically, at the dents in her golden balcony rail that his clenched fists had left.

"Not worried at all," she thought.

Loki sped through the air, reveling in the speed and the freedom of movement that came with being a falcon. He reached the Bifrost, the rainbow bridge between the realms, and although he was in a hurry, could not resist flapping around Heimdall the gatekeeper's head a few times and screeching the highest-pitched note he could muster in the 9-foot tall God's face. When the God, snarling, drew his sword to strike the bird from the air, Loki wisely decided that he was probably irritated enough for the time being and, dodging Heimdall's sword, sped down towards Jotunheim, the realm of the Frost Giants. Upon entering the snowy mountain ranges, he perched on a column of ice, getting his breath back. On the few occasions that he had come to Jotunheim, he had always found it oddly calming. The freezing temperatures had always made him feel more comfortable than the relative warmth of Asgard, although he had never said anything about it to Thor, Sif, or The Warriors Three that had come with him. Suddenly remembering his task, he tipped forward and pitched into space, plunging downwards and circling the palace that belonged to Thrym, the prince of the Frost Giants. Loki looked through various windows until he found what he was looking for. Thrym was inside on his throne, looking incredibly smug and stroking the head of an enormous wolf that lay beside him. Loki swooped through the open window, landing lightly on the arm of the throne. The giant looked at him, surprised, then did a magnificently dramatic double-take when he saw that the bird beside him had intelligent, emerald-green, gleaming eyes, instead of the golden ones typical in most falcons. He chuckled, and the sound was low, rough and unpleasant, like a blunt knife cutting through ice.

"You are not a normal falcon. One of the Aesir, I presume? What are you doing here, little Asgardian?"

Loki was watching the wolf beside Thrym warily. As soon as he had landed, it had sat up and was currently staring at the bird, tongue lolling out hungrily, its eyes cold, intense and eager. Loki shuffled further up the arm of the throne.

"I came to ask you a question," he said calmly, his voice slightly distorted by the presence of his beak and his eyes still fixed on the wolf's jaws. "Were you the one who took Thor's hammer?"

The giant laughed again. "Indeed I was. It is buried eight miles in the earth and only I know exactly where it is. It will not be returned until I am given what I want."

Loki sighed. Nothing is ever simple.

"And what is it that you want, exactly? Gold? Food? A muzzle for that mangy psychotic excuse for an animal that is sitting beside you?" Loki was edging further and further up the arm of the throne, since the wolf was shuffling closer and closer to him, dragging its hindquarters along the ground seemingly in the hope that the falcon would not notice it moving.

"Do you not like wolves, little Asgardian? I have always found them to be majestic animals."

"I have no problem with wolves," replied Loki. "One of my sons is a giant wolf, in fact. Your pet there just seems to be composed more of fleas, halitosis and slobber than of actual wolf." Thyrm's smug smile dropped.

"I want Freyja," grated the giant. The falcon stopped shuffling and froze. "I want to marry the beautiful goddess Freyja. If you do not bring her here to me in eight days' time, I will lead an attack on Asgard. And you cannot possibly hope to defeat me without the power of Mjolnir."

Loki sighed, knowing all too well that that was true. He took a short run along the arm of the throne and took off, clouting the wolf on the ear as he did so. It leapt after him with an angry yelp, snapping its jaws, but Loki was already wheeling around the hall and swooping back out of the window. He flew back up the Bifrost, flying silently behind Heimdall, building speed and knocking his helm off before continuing towards the plains of Asgard. He chuckled to himself as the Gatekeepers' outraged roar of "LOKI!" followed him. It seemed that Heimdall had worked out the identity of the unusually irritating falcon. He approached Freyja's balcony again, shot through the window and deposited himself neatly on the floor, shedding the skin with a flourish and regaining his normal form as he did so. Freyja and Thor both leapt out of the chairs where they had been waiting with a yelp, at the sudden appearance of 6 foot 2 of dark-haired God, seemingly out of nowhere. Loki bounded over to Freyja, casually tossing the falcon-skin at Thor as he went. It hit the tall blond Thunder-God in the face. Loki clasped Freyja by the shoulders and gave her a massive bear-hug. "Ungrshhulashuns," was the muffled sound that came from beneath her hair. Freyja pulled Loki away from her shoulder. "What?" she asked.
"I said, congratulations. You are to be married next week! Isn't that lovely? I love weddings! Drinks all around! And your bridegroom is simply wonderful. A bit cold, overbearing, yes, but I'm sure there's a heart of gold beneath it all. Just promise me that you'll get rid of the wolf once you're married, will you? It's psychotic and it probably has rabies…unnnff." The "unnnff" was the result of Thor walking up behind Loki, putting his hand over his mouth and spinning him around to face him.

"I will ask you this once, brother," said Thor quietly, menacingly, his other hand gripping Loki's shoulder painfully. Where is Mjolnir and what is this nonsense about Freyja getting married?"

Loki blinked calmly up at Thor until Thor realized why his brother wasn't answering. He removed his hand from Loki's mouth.

"Thrym the Frost Giant has your Hammer. I knew you were a heavy sleeper, brother, but by Yggdrasil, you must snore loud enough to wake the dead if you didn't even hear that brute trot into your chambers and make off with your pet hammer in the middle of the night."

Thor's eyes narrowed. Loki continued hurriedly. "The point is, Thrym isn't going to give your hammer back unless he gets to marry Freyja. Oh yes, and if he doesn't get to marry, he's going to begin an attack on Asgard. But I'm sure we don't need to worry about that, since Freyja's so public-spirited and will of course do this for us. For the good of Asgard. And everybody loves a good wedding, I'm rather looking forward to it already…" He glanced at Freyja, grinning slyly, and then ducked sharply as, for the third time that day, a heavy object was flung at his head.

"I am NOT marrying a Frost Giant," growled Freyja furiously, pacing up to The God of Mischief and speaking directly into his face. "I don't care how much danger Asgard is in. I will NOT marry a monster."

"And yet we need to get Mjolnir back if Asgard is to remain safe," replied Loki smoothly and calmly. I'm sure Odin will be pleased to know that you give your own wellbeing greater priority than the wellbeing of the entire realm."

"You filthy hypocrite!" screeched Freyja. "When have YOU ever put the safety of Asgard above your own wellbeing?"

"If you would care to remember, Freyja, I gave birth to an eight-legged horse for the good of Asgard! That wasn't particularly comfortable!"

"Yes, but you got us into that mess with the horse and the wall in the first place!"

"Only by accident, and then I got us out of it. Eight legs, Freyja!"

Thor's booming voice interrupted the increasingly shrill conversation exasperatedly. "We still need to get Mjolnir back. So if Freyja will not marry Thrym, what are we to do?"

Loki paused. Then his eyes widened. Then he grinned a grin of pure, evil joy.

"Oh no. I know that look," said Thor, getting increasingly worried. Whenever his brother looked this happy, mischief and chaos invariably followed shortly afterwards.

Loki slowly turned to face Thor. His slender frame was shaking with suppressed laughter.

"How desperate are you?" he asked. "What are you prepared to do to get Mjolnir back?"

Thor just stared at him. "Anything, brother. Obviously."

Loki clapped his hands together. "Good. In that case, I have a plan."

"What!" yelped Thor eagerly. "What is it?"

"We dress you as Freyja, go to Jotunheim, wait for them to show you the hammer, and you can kill Thrym at your wedding feast."

Thor resumed staring, his face clearly showing that he thought Loki had, finally, gone completely insane. Ignoring Freyja's snort of amusement, he looked at his brother and said, slowly and clearly, "Loki, I am male. Freyja is female."

"So we dress you as a woman! No one will know. I have heard that there are some men who dress as women on Midgard fairly successfully."

"I look nothing like her!"

"You're both tall, you both have long blonde hair…you're a bit more muscular, certainly, but give you a thick coat to hide that and you'll be identical."

"Loki, I have a beard."

"So you'll wear a veil. Do you want Mjolnir back or not?"

Thor slumped, defeated. "Tell Father, Sif or the Warriors Three about this, or anyone else for that matter, and I will drop-kick you off the Bifrost."

Loki just grinned.

Eight days later…

"Oh darling, you look beautiful," cooed Loki, a wolfish grin contorting his features, his eyes full of glee. Freyja was standing at his side, trying and failing to keep a straight face. "Thor, you have to believe that you look beautiful, and then everyone else will believe it too. Now give us a twirl." At this last comment, Freyja lost her composure completely, snorting with hysterical laughter, tears streaming from her eyes.

Thor was standing in in the centre of the room, wearing one of Freyja's dresses, which Loki had had to make bigger using magic, due to the fact that it wouldn't fit over Thor's shoulders, arms or torso otherwise. He had resumed clenching his fists, and was standing in the most distinctly un-ladylike way imaginable. Whereas Freyja stood gracefully and relaxed, Thor stood with his feet apart, braced like he was about to fight someone.

"Actually, we may not need Mjolnir after all," mused Loki thoughtfully. "Your current expression alone could probably kill an entire army of Frost giants."

That murderous expression was consequently slowly turned in his direction.

Loki walked forward, depositing a veil on Thor's head, which neatly covered the incriminating beard. Freyja then wrapped a thick fur coat around him, which effectively gave the impression that the majority of Thor's bulk was composed of the fur and not of muscle. It was actually fairly convincing.

"Are we not going to give him heels to wear?" asked Freyja, an uncharacteristically mischievous smile on her face. Loki gave her an approving grin and thumbs-up behind Thor's back, then hastily shook his head and responded "no, I think snow boots will be adequate – we are going to Jotunheim, after all," as a strangled mewing sound, reminiscent of a cat stuck in a door, issued from beneath the veil.

"Off we go, then," said Loki, winking at Freyja.

"You-you're coming as well?" came the plaintive, oddly quiet voice behind the veil.

"You in drag, having to flirt with a kleptomaniac Frost Giant warlord?" replied Loki. "I wouldn't miss this for the world."

"Then where's your disguise?"

"I am the Shape-Changer, brother. I can do better than a mere dress and a veil."

As Freyja and Thor watched, Loki's hair grew longer, his face slightly less angular, and his slender figure shifted, as he became a woman. She was still fairly recognizable as Loki, as she had the same eyes, the same general features and the same gleeful facial expression, but to anyone who did not know him well, it would be utterly convincing.

Thor grunted. "Now I feel even more ridiculous."

"But you look phenomenal. Give us a kiss."

"Stop it."

"I was joking! Right, we need to go," Loki replied. "I'll act as a bridesmaid, and remember, you have to answer to Freyja. In fact, it's probably best if you try and talk as little as possible."

"The same policy as always, then," Freyja quipped, winking at Loki. Loki chuckled and gave her another thumbs up as a growl came from beneath the veil. They walked into the courtyard of Odin's palace, mounted their waiting horses and began to canter towards the Bifrost.

"You do look lovely though, Brother. Maybe you should dress like this more often once we get back. At formal occasions, ceremonies, things like that."

"Go to Hel, Loki."

"That's a good point, actually. I should go and see Hel. I haven't talked to my daughter in a while. It can't be a pleasant job, managing all those dead people. "

"She is disgusting."

"Be kind! She is your niece, after all."

"She is a corpse from the waist down, Loki."

"And you're currently a woman from the head down, what's your point?"

"….Loki….You are my brother and I love you, but I am not above breaking your legs."

"You need to learn to take a compliment."

"Loki."

"What?"

"Shut up."

"…Thor…"

"What is it now?"

"…You're going to have to ride past Heimdall dressed like this."

"….That's it. I don't care about Mjolnir any more. I hope the Frost Giants eat me."

Once Loki and Thor reached Jotunheim, several Frost Giant servants hurried out of the palace to take their horses and stable them. Thor began to stride into the palace purposefully. Loki hurried after him.

"Thor, remember, you're pretending to be Freyja."

"Yes?"

"So you're walking like Thor. Like you want to fight giants."

"I do."

"I know you do. But you have to try and walk like a goddess who's excited about getting married. Don't stomp. Glide."

"Glide?"

Don't look down, your chin should be parallel to the floor. Don't pick your feet up, why are you picking your feet up?"

"Because I'm preparing to run away."

"Very funny. Look, just try and copy me and don't alert them to the fact that you're a male warrior with a score to settle. Just try and copy me."

Loki began to 'glide' into the palace and with a deep, aggravated sigh, Thor attempted to walk in the same way. It wasn't pretty and it wasn't elegant, but in comparison to the lumbering gaits of the giants around them, it was practically catwalk- worthy. Loki glanced over his shoulder and rolled his eyes. It would have to do.

When they reached the great hall, Thrym hurried down from the dais at the end of the room. "Freyja!" he cried, clasping 'her' hands. "I'm so glad you decided to come."

Thor grunted from behind the veil, but to his credit, it was a higher-pitched, slightly more feminine grunt than usual. Loki turned his head away and bit the inside of his cheek to prevent himself from laughing. Thrym hurried 'Freyja' up the hall and seated her in the ornately carved chair at the head of the table, before taking the seat next to her. Still struggling to keep a straight face, Loki took the seat on Thor's other side, noting Thor's clenched hands on his knees and marveling at Thrym's stupidity, or at least his unobservantness. The Frost Giant servants began to bring out huge platters of salmon, oxen, goats, sheep, bread and enormous flagons of mead. Loki, as always, only took a small amount, but Thor grabbed handfuls of everything and began to eat quickly, making small irritated noises at his veil getting in the way of his food. Loki kicked him under the table, but only received a harder kick in return, causing his entire right leg to go numb. By the time Thor had devoured his fifth helping, Thrym has staring at his new fiancée in disbelief. He swiveled his glance to Loki, raising the heavy ridge of his brow questioningly, his red eyes wide.

"Forgive her, my Lord," said Loki, confidentially, but so that Thor could hear him. "Lady Freyja has been so excited these past eight days in anticipation of her wedding day that she has not eaten anything, hence her large appetite now. She's just heard so much about you, about your good looks, your nature, your prowess as a warrior. She already is in love with you, I believe." Thrym smiled, displaying sharp, stained teeth and nudged Thor's shoulder fondly. However, due to the giant's size, this gentle nudge actually sent Thor flying into Loki, knocking the god of mischief off his chair.

"Patience, my love, we will be married soon," rumbled Thrym with a sharp toothed grin, and turned away to give an order to an attendant. Checking that the Giant was not listening, Thor leaned towards Loki.

"Why in Valhalla's name would you say all that?" Thor hissed furiously, as his younger brother clambered back up into his seat, slightly dazed. "Now the giant believes that I…that Freyja…loves him. He'll probably want to get married even faster now. Why did you have to say that and stir everything up?"

Loki blinked, leaning back in his chair. "I am the God of Mischief, brother. It's in the job description. I can't help it, it's like an impulse."

"Well, I just heard him speaking to that attendant, he wants to get married immediately after the meal!"

"Lucky you! I'm so proud. This is the happiest day of my life. Shall we hug?"

"Loki, I am SERIOUS."

"I know! Look, calm down. Hopefully they'll bring out Mjolnir to 'bless the bride.' That's customary, so if we're lucky, they will. When they do, seize it, cast off the veil, because let us be honest, it's not really your colour, and start smashing Frost Giants. That is what you do best, is it not? And when we tell the story about the time you killed an entire hall of evil giants in years to come, we'll omit the little unimportant detail that you happened to be in a dress at the time. What are you worried about?"

"Are you absolutely certain that they will bring out the hammer, Loki?"

"It's a tradition. I'm really fairly sure. Nearly completely entirely certain."

"LOKI…"

"Shh. Calm yourself, Brother."

During their whispered conversation, the table had been cleared. Thrym stood up, taking Thor's hand as he did so. Thor's panicked, jerky head movements at this latest development caused Loki to start laughing while sipping from his drinking horn, causing him to snort mead from his nose. Despite the fact that he couldn't see his brother's face, he knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that he was being glared at. That knowledge made him laugh all the harder and he struggled to regain composure so that he could hear what Thrym was actually saying.

"Bring forth the hammer, to hallow the bride!" the giant was calling. Put Mjolnir on her lap so that the goddess Var will hear our marriage oath and give her blessing to us." Thor glanced at his brother. Despite being in disguise, Loki's cocky, self-satisfied smile was unmistakable at being proved right, even more so than usual. The god was usually surrounded by an air of casual smugness, he wore complacency like Thor wore armour. The blond-haired God groaned inwardly. He'll be unbearable after this… he thought.

A smaller than average Frost Giant servant brought in Mjolnir, straining under the weight, and Loki saw his brother sit up straighter as he saw his beloved weapon. The hammer was carefully placed on the table in front of Thor, just out of reach. Loki was getting nervous now. His brother's hand was twitching and Loki knew from experience that a vein would be pulsing in Thor's forehead as well. They were seconds away from Thor losing his temper and attacking blindly. The god of Mischief subtly pushed his chair away from the table slightly, ready to dive underneath it should Thor begin smashing things indiscriminately. He'd learnt his lesson after standing too close to a drunk Thor in a tavern fight seven years previously. Thrym took the hammer, carefully placing it on Thor's lap, and turned away, asking for Var's blessing. His back was now towards Thor. Loki grimaced. Bad move.

Mjolnir smashed into the back of Thrym's head, crushing his skull and sending him flying. Thor immediately leapt onto the table, ripping off the veil as he went, and held out his hand. Mjolnir flew back into it and straight away, Thor threw it again, into the face of the next Frost Giant, who was advancing on him with an enormous ice-covered halberd. The giant toppled backwards like a felled tree, actually knocking over the two giants behind him in a strange frost-giant domino effect. There was now panic all over the hall, with some giants trying to attack Thor (who was still standing on the table in a dress, coat and veil gone, shouting war cries and hurling Mjolnir like a boomerang), and some giants trying to run for the doors for reinforcements. As Loki watched, an attacking Jotunn and an escaping Jotunn ran straight into each other and crashed to the floor. Loki grinned. As an agent of chaos, this is what he lived for. Shedding his magical disguise and regaining his normal form and armour, he slid under the table so as not to get crushed by any falling frost giants, only to come face to face with Thrym's giant, psychotic pet wolf, also hiding under the table.

The wolf snarled.

Loki's face slowly broke into a grin.

10 seconds later, the wolf was scampering out of the hall, tail between its legs, pursued by a magically-conjured, regimented fleet of small falcons that were repeatedly dive- bombing it.

Loki crouched under the table and pressed both his palms to the floor, instantly turning the snow-covered floor of the hall to sheer ice. All the frost giants who were attempting to run yelped and slipped, falling to the floor in untidy heaps. As they tried to get back up, Loki performed small acts of magical mischief, fusing boots together so the giants fell down again, melting the ice slightly and then refreezing it so that they stuck in place, or making the giants' weapons ten times as heavy so that every time they tried to charge at Thor they would topple forwards again. Loki poked his head up above the table to see his brother standing on the table, surveying the mayhem, grinning hugely, spinning Mjolnir around his wrist.

He was still wearing the dress.

"Thor! We need to go!" Loki hollered over the din, climbing on to the long table to avoid the ice and mounds of giants, and sprinting to the end of it. He leapt off the table, neatly ice - skating the last 20 feet of the hall to the door. By contrast, Thor jumped off the table onto the mounds of giants and clambered over them to the end of the hall, in a significantly less elegant manner than Loki had. He covered the last 10 feet using the final giant's face as a makeshift springboard, landing triumphantly beside his younger brother.

"I'm assuming, from the cheerful expression on your face, that you enjoyed that?" Loki said dryly.

"It has been a long week. I earned it," Thor grinned.

As they made their way out into the quiet, icicle-heavy courtyard, Loki went to fetch the horses from the stable. As he returned, he discovered Thor ripping off the remains of his dress, revealing the fact that he was wearing the majority of his armour underneath.

"You wore your armour underneath the dress? No wonder it wouldn't fit properly!" He said exasperatedly to Thor, who was now wearing a self-satisfied expression of his own as he ground the dress underfoot.
"I was expecting to battle Frost Giants, brother, and I needed my armour for that. It is also cold in Jotunheim, and that dress is too thin for warmth. Wearing armour underneath it was the logical solution. Also - and this is the most important point - I refuse to make a triumphant return to Asgard with Mjolnir, having defeated a palace full of Frost Giants, while wearing a dress."

Leaving the muddy, torn dress on the ground, he vaulted onto his horse and began to trot out of the courtyard.

"Damn," muttered Loki to himself. He had been looking forward to Thor having to return to Asgard in a dress. He, too, mounted his horse and galloped to catch up with Thor.

"I must thank you, brother," Thor said, glancing over at Loki, who was now trotting beside him. "That plan did prove effective, no matter how ridiculous it initially seemed."

"You're too kind." Loki muttered.

"Really," Thor continued. "It was a good plan. I mean, it did heavily rely on the stupidity of Frost Giants, but I have Mjolnir back because of you. Thank you."

"You're welcome."

"And if you ever tell anyone about the dress, I will strangle you."

"Your secret is safe with me. I am a vault. Consider my lips sewn shut."

"Thank you."

"I fear I cannot guarantee how long for, though…"

"What?"

"Nothing."

"No, what did you say?"

"Nothing. Although," Loki added, "Heimdall and Freyja did both see you like this. They could tell everyone."

"Heimdall is mature enough not to take the same kind of delight you do from embarrassing people. And Freyja will be embarrassed enough that a Frost Giant wanted to marry her that she won't say anything about any of this."

"Hmm. I suppose you're right. It's a shame, though. You did look lovely."

"Loki."

"I'm sure you'll make some Frost Giant Prince very happy some day."

"Loki…."

"And we never even got to have the wedding. I've never been a bridesmaid before. I was rather excited. It was heartbreaking when you jilted your fiancé at the altar by smashing a hammer into his face."

"Loki, I mean it…."

"Can you still throw the bouquet? I want to be next!"

"LOKI!"

"Yes, brother dear?"

"Shut up."

"Oh, the gratitude."

What Thor didn't know was that Heimdall, being the all-seeing gatekeeper, had already informed all of the Aesir about every detail of the time spent in Jotunheim, for his own amusement. He's not quite as solemn and mature as everyone thinks. The story has become a favourite at parties. Loki loves telling it, especially when Thor's in the room and attempts to deny things or change details. It never works.

For Thor's next birthday, Loki, Freyja, Sif and The Warriors Three got him a new dress tailored to fit over his armour, to replace the one that he'd stood on. It was Loki's idea. Thor consequently made good on his promise and drop-kicked Loki through the portal of the Bifrost, much to Heimdall's delight. Loki ended up in a desert in Midgard and spent two days having to apologize to Heimdall for various pranks he'd played over the years, so that the Gatekeeper would open the Bifrost and let him back in.

Odin was very proud of Thor for getting Mjolnir back and defeating the frost giants. Loki was rather bitter about that, due to
the fact that he got hardly any praise when he had done most of the work and Thor had been the one who actually let Mjolnir be taken in the first place. However he was greatly cheered up by the fact that the feast that Odin held in Thor's honour featured a speech in which Odin, with a mischievous glint in his one eye, said the line "a warrior of whom I am truly proud, willing to travel to hostile lands and risk their life for the protection of our noble realm. My beautiful daughter, the Princess of Asgard - Thor."

Loki didn't stop laughing until Thor dumped a tankard of ale over his head.