A/N: I have two articles of business to address before embarking on the next installment of our series (well, technically, we've already embarked, but hey...) so if you're skipping this section to get straight to the story, that's fine, but PLEASE COME BACK AND READ IT WHEN YOU'RE DONE!

Ahem.

1. Mumford and Sons has totally taken over my life. That's not really relevant except that Broken Crown suits Loki so freakin' much, but I just wanted to share.

2. This is the real bit I would like to get opinions on. Gabrielle Day and I have been writing fanfiction together... well, actually writing it down since we were about twelve, but we've been creating it since we were younger than that. We've had our separate projects over the years that we've worked with, but a little over a year ago we started seriously considering a joint project that could actually be published. It is focused around two characters that we have developed since we were about twelve or thirteen. They've grown with us and we love them dearly. The story, in a broad sense because I know you're wanting to get on to the Loki and Thor brotherly love, is a steampunk-styled adventure story with heavy dystopian tones. I won't go into everything here. Anyway, we were discussing the fact that the banter between the two main characters (Chase and Anna) lines up with much of our fanfiction (not just our Avengers stuff, but also the White Collar, Covert Affairs, and Hawaii Five-0 stuff we've worked on) and it would make sense that our fans here on fanfiction dot net might be interested in a new series. (By the way, you can feel special right now, I this is the first place I'm posting this). All this to say that we were talking about the beginnings of marketing the idea (because while we're planning on having a traditional publishing with it, it's still not a bad idea to do a bit of marketing and gather your fan base before hand) and we're contemplating creating twitter accounts for the characters to start letting people get to know them and have some fun with them (some of them are very nice people. Just stay away from Ines and her blood-red cakes...)

The question is this: Are any of you on Twitter and if so, how many would be interested in following and helping us promote something like that?

Okay, no one has ever accused me of being short winded. I'm going to let you get back to what you're really here for. Just let us know. Many of you have been very loyal fans to this series and we'd love to have you along for the ride if you're interested.


Beast of Burden

Takada Saiko and Gabrielle Day

He had taken the first opportunity that had presented itself to slip out. The crowds were stifling and on a whole he cared nothing for company. He had never been overly fond of the elite that nipped at the royal family's heals, schmoozing and groveling in hopes that they might be looked on with favour. It had always been that way and he had always shied away from it. Perhaps that was really why people had always viewed him as different.
Loki sighed and leaned heavily against the railing of the outer hallway. The night breeze was pleasant and he could, he was sure, manage to be inconspicuously absent for another ten or fifteen minutes at the very least. Perhaps longer if Thor were still drinking as he had been when he had left.

"You always manage to skip out of the big parties, don't you?"

He turned, mentally cursing himself that he had allowed his thoughts to so entirely take over. Jane Foster stood a few yards away, dressed in all of Asgard's fineries. She really did look the part of a goddess in her shimmering gold dress and her hair piled atop her head. Loki even recognized a necklace of his mother's around her neck. Strange, how much Frigga had taken a liking to her. He couldn't blame her. Even he could not find anything to pit against her. Well, with the exception of the horrible, inevitable end that always accompanied a love affair with a mortal woman.

"My mother told me when I was young that if I could not find something pleasant to say that I should spend ten minutes outside thinking about why not." Loki said with a wry smile.

Jane smiled and moved closer, leaning against the railing not five feet away from him. "And if you cannot think of anything nice after ten minutes?"

"My dearest Jane, it takes me seconds to vanish completely. If I cannot think of a compelling reason to be somewhere in ten minutes I'm usually not to be found for at least two days afterwards."

She laughed, the sound light and clear in the night air. Loki had to admit that Thor had made an excellent choice, if he had to pick a mortal woman. Jane Foster was smart and stunning and fearless as for as he could remember. She had charm, grace, and poise which were all things that any consort of Thor's would be required to have. He studied her profile and noted the tension in her shoulders and the downward turn of her mouth.

"Did you not think it was it a lovely party?" Loki asked.

Jane looked at him, brown eyes warm but tired. "Oh, no. I mean, yes, it is a lovely party. Everyone is very kind."

"Your friend has deserted you for the evening, I take it."

"Darcy?" Jane smiled. "Yes. She finds Volstagg's company much more appealing when we are here."

"It must be difficult, not being able to be here as often as you'd like, to not see Thor as often as you like." Loki said, gauging her reaction.

"Yes. I don't mind, though. I get a lot of work done when we're apart." She started to say more, but hesitated. She sighed, the slump of her shoulders causing tendrils of dark hair to fall loose. "I'm... not used to all of this. The parties, the attention, everything. I'm the girl that locks herself away on a project for weeks, sometimes months, on end and doesn't think twice about it." She stopped, dark eyes watching Loki intently. "Can I trust you?"

"No," Loki murmured with a smile, meaning it mostly as in jest.

Jane smiled. "I just mean, can you keep this to yourself? I feel like I have to get it out or I'll burst... And you know him best."

Loki could feel the dread setting in. He knew where this was going and he didn't like it one bit. "I won't keep secrets from my brother."

She quirked an eyebrow and he added, "Well, not many anyway."

"I'm not asking you to lie to him... Just... Please?"

Loki gave a half groan of exasperation. "I can't tell you if it is something I can keep until I know. In that case, it is best that if Thor should not know that you do not tell me." When she made to immediate response he turned green eyes on her and startled. Tears were building and one trailed down her cheek. Well then, that wasn't what he had expected or wanted.

"I'm sorry," she murmured, wiping it away angrily. "I just don't know what to do. I love Thor, more than any other man I've ever known, but... When I'm here it's nothing but parties and glamour, but when I'm on Earth I can't help but worry that something'll happen to him and I'll never know. What do I do if he goes out on some grand adventure and dies? I'll just be waiting. It was a year between the time that I met him and when he came back to Earth and I didn't even see him. I heard about it in the aftermath. I saw him on TV. I woke up for nights after that, always thinking that he'd just show up."

"And then one day he did," Loki murmured. He'd still been locked away at that time, in his small cell of a room with no hope for the future or true understanding of the events that had unfolded.

Jane smiled sadly. "And then one day he did." She ran her hands over her face, trying to clear away the tears. "I'm just not sure that I can keep wondering like that. It's the worse feeling in the world. I don't think I could take the not knowing."

"You could always come and stay here. Permanently." He couldn't believe the words were leaving his mouth, but the thought of this mortal woman leaving his brother was more than he really wished to put together at this point. His happiness hinged on her and he did prefer a happy Thor as to an angry one.

"But I have my work." She stopped, realizing what she had said. "I'm sorry. I shouldn't have said anything to you. Please don't tell Thor about this. Please?"

"I warned you not to tell me." He sighed at her panic-stricken face. "It's not a threat, Jane. You should... talk to him about this. He has changed since he met you, and all the nine realms know that many of us tried to change him before. You are special to him. Speak to him on the matter."

Jane swiped a finger under both eyes to make sure she had no smeared mascara and managed a nervous smile. "I don't think I can. Thor is...well, Thor is a god. The two of you will be schmoozing at dinner parties just like this long after I'm a vague memory of something that happened a long time ago, or forgotten altogether."

He impulsively reached out a hand as if to touch her arm, but Thor's voice caused her to turn and his reach to fall short. The crown prince appeared at the doorway and Jane was smiling again moving towards him. Loki smiled, almost sadly, to himself. The interruption was lucky. He was reluctant to lie to her, but it would have been his only option. She was not wrong. Even if Thor married her and was loyal to her to the end of her days, her days would end a hundred lifetimes before theirs did.

As long as Thor did nothing to get them killed sooner, granted.

Thor met his gaze over her head as he embraced her and the blond's smile widened. Loki shook his head and Thor motioned for him to come back inside. Loki nodded once and Thor led Jane back inside.

Loki frowned again. It was not just the pointless drivel that had driven him away from the gathering. There was something hovering around the edges of his awareness he could not put a finger on and he had hoped the air would clear his mind. Now that his momentary distraction had passed, the feeling was back.

With a sigh he moved to follow his brother. Now that Thor had found him he would be back out in mere moments when he noticed that the younger prince had not followed. So he moved back through the well-dressed gods and goddesses of the high court of Asgard. Many bobbed their heads in a sign of outward respect that he knew they could not possibly feel, but would show all the same.

His eyes scanned the crowd. It had not been long you- by their standards - since the battle with Arlan. Asgard picked itself up well from disaster and moved on. It had been a brief run of peace, but that never seemed to last.

A frown tugged Loki's lips as he saw the source of his unease. She was beautiful and stood against the far wall eyeing his brother in a way that made him uneasy. They had known her all through their childhoods, but something had twisted her in more recent years, setting her apart to the point that she had left the courts and isolated herself with the exception of her lone companion - if he could be called that - and her spells.

"Approached by a prince of Asgard. I am honoured," Amoura murmured softly.

"It has been some time," Loki acknowledged.

"Yes, I've heard that you've done quite a bit of soul-searching as of late. Did you find it?" She smirked at the way he tilted his head. "Your soul, I mean."

Loki snorted and leaned back against the wall, crossing his arms and watching the crowds. "Where have you been?"

"You may be a prince, but I don't see how my whereabouts are your concern."

"I hear you've been keeping less than reputable company as of late."

"Just now, I'd say. Tell me, Loki, how are the dungeons of Asgard?"

Loki smiled thinly. "In fine working order. You should feel quite safe sleeping at night."

"As safe as it can be with the two of us walking free." she said, twirling a thick lock of hair around her finger. "Your brother looks very happy with his little pet. You're being surprisingly tolerant, I think, given the fact that he has never brought a mortal to Asgard before. Could it be because she is as temporary as a breeze? As fleeting as a kind thought through your head?"

Loki studied her, her smooth and placid face and her cold eyes. "What is it, Amoura, that you have done that would make Asgardians lose sleep at night?"

She smiled, red lips curving upward with dark mirth. "Maybe nothing. Maybe not yet. Maybe the ice is cracking beneath your feet as we speak."

"Ice cracking beneath my feet is comforting notion, if that is the worst to befall me, I assure you. Why are you here? You have not been attending court functions as of late."

Amoura's gaze slid past him, back to Thor. "For old time's sake. I have missed you both so much. We were such good friends, the three of us, once upon a time." She refocused on Loki. "I heard about your last battle against the shadow creatures. I wish I could have seen it. Such power."

"Is that what brought you here?"

"Can't I just pop in to say hello."

A smile stretched across Loki's face, knowing and undaunted. "Don't lie to me, Amoura."

"Never, but it looks like you have larger problems to deal with tonight." She pointed one long, dainty finger towards the crowned prince. He was surrounded by friends that, have consuming more than their share of mead, were encouraging that he join them in the festivities. He gave a loud, hearty laugh that echoed through the great hall and Amoura smiled. "Good luck."

She watched him give her one despairing look before making his way towards the blond. She watched them both carefully before allowing her eyes to move the the brunette beauty that was stepping to the side. Jane glanced around briefly, as if looking for someone and not finding them, before moving towards Amoura herself.

The Enchantress stepped forward, blocking the mortal woman's path. "The infamous Jane Foster, isn't it? I've heard wonderful things," she purred.

"Hello," Jane managed. "I'm afraid we haven't been-"

"Introduced? No. I've just come in and I do believe that Thor was a bit... preoccupied to notice."

"He does enjoy the festivities."

"Most men do." She looked out to find the dark haired sorcerer's attention well taken with his brother. "Walk with me, Jane Foster. I'd like to know the woman that has captured a heart as wild as Thor Odinson's."

Amoura led her into the gardens, lit for the evening by moonlight and softly glowing bugs that Jane equated to fireflies, but were as big as her fist. The taller woman linked her arm through Jane's as they strolled. Jane noticed she smelled faintly like lavender, but doubted it could be something so familiar.

"You seem so sad, if you do not mind me saying so. You are a beautiful, intelligent woman who has the attention of the god of thunder. You should be nothing but smiles and elation." Amoura said, covering Jane's hand with her own.

"Oh, I am. I'm just tired, that's all. Going back and forth between Asgard and Earth can be tiring. And I don't party much at home. Mostly I work. I really like what I do."

"So nice to have passions, isn't it? It's precious that you've found something to occupy your time while Thor cavorts around, making war and antagonizing his baby brother. You shouldn't trust him, you know. The baby brother, I mean. Just as friendly advice, one woman to another."

Jane blinked and frowned. "Loki? Thor trusts hims."

"Yes. You might wish to take note that Thor is the only one that trusts him. But back to point, my darling, why are you sad? I know it's more than being tired. You can be honest with me. I've been a family friend for years. Let me calm your fears."

Jane glanced back towards the party, distant and beyond her direct line of vision. She could hear the low rumbling of Thor's laughter even out here and she realized that he did not even know she was gone. The emotions of the day hit their peak and she told all.


Loki looked around nervously. "Thor, I've been trying to tell you-"

"Enough, Loki!" the god of thunder laughed. "Don't spoil the night. We can handle business in the morning."

"It's not-" He stopped, green eyes darting to all the faces nearby. Amoura had disappeared, that much he knew, but so had Jane now that he looked for her. Something told him that she had not simply stepped out to be alone again. "It's about Jane," he hissed without meaning to.

"What about her?"

Loki grabbed onto his brother's arm, pulling him away from the intoxicated crowd. Thor gave a jolt of irritation and reared back to give the trickster a word or two.

"Jane," the dark haired prince reminded the other.

Thor perked suddenly, looking about. "Where did she go?"

"That is what I've been trying to convey," Loki sighed. "And Amoura is here tonight."

"Amoura? She has not been here in... Quite a while now. Did you speak with her?"

"I did. Nothing she said put me at ease."

"Don't be so hard on her, Loki. She's a friend."

"She is a friend who has vanished with your beloved, whom, might I point out you have not noticed is missing." Loki said.

"She's been gone five minutes," Thor said, waving Loki off. He turned to head back towards the group.

Loki sighed and crossed his arms. "Thor. Jane's been gone for almost two hours."

Thor froze and turned back. "Two...that is not possible."

Loki titled his head and lifted an eyebrow.

"Amoura, is she still here?"

"No."

"Perhaps they are just talking. Jane and Sif do not dislike each other, but they do not have much to converse about, Jane has told me as much. Amoura is much more comfortable with," Thor waved his hands, "feminine things."

"As you would know." Loki said.

Thor had the decency to look abashed but made no comment.

"Thor, Amoura only came back because of what happened with Arlan and the shadow creatures. She's after something and I think she have targeted Jane." Loki said.

"For what?" Thor asked, rubbing a hand over his face. The meade was wearing off, but there was much still running through his system.

Loki swallowed. "Doubt can make people do foolish things, you know this."

"I don't understand." Thor said.

Loki smiled. "No. You know no doubt, my brother. And that is well. But the rest of us are not always so certain of our destiny. We are not always so certain of our fate, or our place. Especially when our place near to you is in question."

"What are you saying?" Thor snapped, voice coming out as an irritated growl. He wasn't angry at Loki, not really, but he knew the jealous streak that had often coloured his relationship with Amoura in the past. He knew what she was capable of, and if she had lured Jane away for any reason this was no time for his brother's half-truths.

Loki's eyes found the marble floor and his shoulders slumped. "I am only saying that... Oh damn it all, Thor. Must I say it directly? She's questioning all of this." He gave a wild wave of his hand to indicate the music and the festivities only a few yards away.

"That's not true," Thor answered without pause. "Why would she tell you that?"

"Because she is still in awe of you,Thor, and certainly because she fears that you might overreact without discussing-"

"Overreact?" the thunder god growled. "Because the woman I love does not return my affections?"

"I never said that, brother," Loki said hastily.

"You might as well have." He ran his hands through his hair, pain evident in every movement. He stopped, suddenly, and blue eyes locked with green. His mind was working in spurts between the emotional pain and the worry and the alcohol. "How do you know all of this?"

"She told me."

"And you thought it best to hide this from me?"

"Thor, please, this is a very recent conversation. I have not-"

"At least hours old, if she has been gone that long! Could you not have pulled me to the side the moment you knew?"

The crowds had hushed by this point, many eyes turned to the quarrelling princes of their realm. "Thor, you must take a breath. Gather your wits. All of this can be handled once we find her."

"My wits?"

Loki gave a huff of irritation. "Yes. Your wits. This is not the time for this. I will go look for her. Please be sober by the time I return."

He had turned to leave, knowing that Thor was teetering on something they would both regret. He had done a marvelous job at holding his temper in more recent times, but fear and mead and anger never mixed well. A large hand clapped him on the shoulder, spinning him around. Before he could register the movement enough to vanish from his grasp, he found himself laid out on the marble floor, jaw aching and Thor irate. "You should have told me. You shouldn't have hidden something like this from me. Now she is gone and-"

Loki winced at the choked sob that escaped the crowned prince. "Brother," he tried as Thor turned to leave.

The elder god turned back, face flushed and eyes blurry. "What brother holds something back from another?" he growled out and was gone, leaving Loki to deal with the aftermath.


TBC

A/N: I feel like I should have mentioned this at the beginning, but the space was getting a bit crowded: Neither Gabrielle Day or I follow the Thor comics, therefore Amoura is a bit of a vague subject for us. I've seen a couple of the cartoon series and I like her well enough for a villain. Anyway, that saying, please excuse blaring errors. We'll just claim the fact that she hasn't been in the movies thus far and we're taking artistic licenses with her and... anyone she may or may not be working with *shifty eyes*

Oh, and this is your friendly reminder that if you skipped over the author's notes on top in order to read the story, GO BACK AND READ NOW! We have a very important question to ask.

Till the next chapter.