Although directly related to my main story, Beneath, per the summary, this story can be read entirely on its own, as of course can Beneath. They are the same characters in the same universe, but one story does not depend on the other. It's complete now, but of course I still welcome and will respond to reviews. If you're coming along "after the fact" and read both stories, actually I'd be interested to hear your reactions to how (if at all) reading one first affected how you read the other, whichever you read first.

The please-nobody-sue-me part: I have no claims to anything in the Marvel universe. I make no profit off this. I am grateful to all those who gave us Thor and The Avengers which provide such an amazing canvas on which we can paint our own imaginations.

M & M

Magic & Mead

Chapter One: Ranka & Rods

"Let's take a rowboat down the Vina River and have lunch on that little island with the pear tree," Thor said, grabbing his satchel with his lunch.

"It's too far," Loki said. "We'd never make it back on time for our afternoon classes."

"We've had a lot of rain. The river's running fast. It won't take any time at all."

"But we have to come back, too, Thor. You'd have to carry the boat all the way back." He didn't bother saying we, he knew he wouldn't be much help with such a task.

"I can do it," Thor said defensively, his back straightening.

"I know you can do it. But you can't do it fast enough to keep us out of trouble."

Thor looked as exasperated as he always did when Loki poked holes in his plans, as though he thought Loki was doing it just to annoy him. "Well, can't you just…make the river run the opposite direction when we're ready to come back?"

Loki rolled his eyes. "Why don't I just make time itself stand still while we're gone?"

"You can do that?" Thor asked, wide-eyed. "That would be perfect!" He turned toward the classroom door.

Loki kicked him behind his right knee and he went sprawling on the rough-hewn stone floor.

"Hey, what was that for?" Thor demanded, back on his feet in an instant and taking a half-hearted, poorly aimed swing at his younger brother.

Loki easily stepped out of the way, laughing. He pushed past Thor and picked his satchel up from the floor, handing it back to him. "Don't be stupid. I can't make time stand still or rivers run backward. If you want a pear, why don't we just go have lunch in that clearing out behind the palace? There are at least a dozen pear trees there."

"I don't care about the pears." He punched Loki in the shoulder, lightly for Thor, but already enough to make Loki stumble forward a couple of steps. "We just haven't been to that island in a long time and I thought it would be fun to-"

The boys had reached the door to the room that served as their classroom. An Einherjar guard – Jolgeir – stood in the corridor blocking their exit. There was always at least one guard somewhere in the princes' vicinity, but their presence was unobtrusive and often difficult to detect without serious searching. They made themselves known only when they needed to be, which was not often.

"My prince," he began, bowing his head before Thor. "The All-Father requires that you go to his official study as soon as your lessons are over for the day." He stood straight again, looking only at Thor, as if Loki did not even exist.

"What about Loki?" Thor asked, his face paling slightly.

"His Majesty has asked only for Prince Thor."

Thor nodded; Jolgeir bowed and stepped to the side.

"What did you do?" Loki whispered once they'd gotten far enough down the corridor to be out of earshot.

Thor shook his head. He was staring down at feet. "I don't know. I can't think of anything. I broke a vase two days ago when I was practicing with my sword on the spiral stairs."

"You break things all the time. You've never been called to the throne room for it."

"I can't think of anything else…unless it was something a long time ago that he just found out about." Thor froze in his tracks and spun around to face his younger brother. "You don't think he knows about us going to Sv-"

"Shhhh! No. Besides, if he did, I'd be getting into as much trouble as you. More," Loki said with a grimace. He had hidden them from Heimdall on their adventure to Svartalfheim, a month earlier, his first serious test of that newly learned ability. It had been a complete success – if it hadn't, they would have known about it the minute they emerged through the mystical hidden portal back on Asgard.

Thor's frown deepened. "Well, we better not go to that island. Whatever it is, I can't afford to get into any more trouble."

"Why don't we go to the practice grounds?" Loki suggested. "We can pick up a couple of rods and practice before lunch."

"Oh…yeah, okay," Thor said, distracted and barely listening.

The young princes backtracked toward the storage room where all of their practice equipment was stored, then continued out of the palace in uncharacteristic silence. Loki knew his idea was a good one. Fighting would distract Thor. And Loki was terrible with the rods, probably his worst weapon out of all they'd trained with. Soundly defeating Loki would improve Thor's mood.

Nearly an hour later the brothers sat under the shade of a tall oak tree munching on sandwiches of cold meats and cheeses.

"I think you did a little better this time," Thor said with his mouth full.

"You don't have to say that. I know I'm hopeless with the rods." Loki rubbed his bruised shoulder. He would have a lot of bruises from this bout; Thor had only a scratched palm from one time Loki had managed to sweep his feet and knock him down briefly.

"You just don't swing it with enough conviction."

"Because I'm afraid you're going to break every bone in my fingers!"

"That only happened once. And I got you to the Healing Room right away. You're not still mad about it, are you?"

"No," Loki said with a shrug. It wasn't as though Thor had done it on purpose. Loki had thrust the rod horizontally toward Thor's chest with his fingers improperly positioned, and Thor had blocked the blow with all his considerable strength straight on, his rod lining up with and smashing into Loki's and crushing all of Loki's fingers between them except his thumbs. Loki had stumbled backward and Thor had knocked him to the ground and pinned him there with a heavy blow to the chest, not yet aware of what had happened. Loki struggled to breathe from shock and the strike to his chest, and it wasn't until Thor reached down for his hand to pull him up and Loki screamed with pain that ripped through the shock that Thor realized how badly hurt Loki was. Thor never lacked conviction in anything he did. Loki was sure it was going to get him into trouble someday.

"So what really happened between you and Ranka?" Thor asked in between his first and second sandwiches.

Loki swallowed a bite of apple he hadn't quite thoroughly chewed. "What do you mean? I told you, we had a fight."

"That's not what I heard," Thor said. He bit into his sandwich and stared hard at Loki until the raven-haired boy looked away.

He sighed and frowned. "Ranka can't keep her mouth shut."

"So it's true?"

"How should I know? What did you hear?" Loki asked reluctantly.

"That she tried to kiss you and you shoved her away and yelled at her."

Thor was grinning at him and Loki balled his fists against a sudden impulse to hit his older brother until he stopped grinning. "It wasn't like that." He looked down at his hands, uncurling the fingers. He had loved the feeling of Ranka's soft hand in his. Had thrilled to the warm weight of her head against his shoulder as they sat on the grass in a secluded garden and watched hummingbirds drinking nectar. Had wanted to throw a dagger at Thor's shin when he found them there and started teasing and, worse yet, Ranka had giggled at Thor's antics and seemed to bask in his attention. From then on, especially whenever Thor was around them, Loki had never felt certain which brother she was really interested in.

"So, what was it like, then?" Thor asked a few bites later.

"I fell asleep on the hillside. And suddenly I woke up and she was leaning over me blocking out the sun and her lips were touching mine. It…it kind of scared me."

Thor stared at Loki, his jaw falling still. Then he burst out laughing.

"Stop," Loki said quietly, his cheeks burning with embarrassment.

Thor only laughed harder, and then started choking on the bite of sandwich still in his mouth. Loki gave him a hard shove to the shoulder and he toppled over, coughing out his half-chewed food, then continued right on laughing until he was gasping for air and clutching his stomach. Loki stood up and gave him a swift kick to the rear, making no effort to be gentle about it.

"Ow," Thor said, wincing as he rolled back into a sitting position. "You," he began, still short of breath, laughter still in his voice, "were scared because a girl…wanted…to kiss you?"

"I was just…startled, that's all. I was asleep! And when I opened my eyes all I could see was her face."

"So you shoved her away?"

Loki scowled. It had been humiliating enough when it was just between him and Ranka. Now to think all of Asgard was hearing this story… "'Shoved' is a strong word. I may have pushed her a little. I didn't mean to, it was just reflex. And then she ran off."

"And then you went running straight to Mother's arms?" Thor asked, breaking out in fresh laughter.

"I did not! Cut it out, Thor." He kicked a rock at his brother; it struck him in the arm.

"You cut it out. You're going to send me to the Healing Room. And then I'd have to miss history," Thor said, sticking out his tongue.

"You know what Mother said about sticking-"

"What are you going to do, tattle? Sit back down, Brother."

Loki forced one last angry breath out his nose before settling back down beside Thor.

"Don't get mad. It's funny. You have to admit it's funny." Thor was smiling, but he wasn't making fun anymore. Not that the distinction seemed too great to Loki.

"I do not," Loki said, picking up his apple.

"Well, trust me, it is. Just next time a girl kisses you, if one is ever brave enough to try" – Loki snorted at this and imagined loosing a dozen daggers into Thor's laughing body – "don't push her away."

"Like you're such an expert," Loki muttered under his breath, just loud enough for Thor to hear.

Thor narrowed his eyes but didn't respond. Although less than a year older, Thor very much enjoyed acting the big brother, including dispensing advice, but they told each other everything and Loki knew Thor had only ever kissed Birna's hand and Hervor's cheek. Asgard, they both already understood, was home to many contrasts, including a formal modesty and a certain degree of licentiousness, and the young princes were aware of the eyes upon them and the higher standards they were held to in all things, from how one behaved at the dinner table to how one treated a lady. Loki honestly wasn't sure if he'd be more embarrassed for everyone to know that he'd kissed a girl or that he'd pushed away one who tried to kiss him. And besides, why would he want to kiss her in the first place when he wondered if she'd rather be kissing Thor?

"Forget about her," Thor finally said, letting Loki's snub pass, knowing it sprang only from his younger brother's embarrassment. "Who would want to kiss someone when he's asleep, anyway? That's weird."

"I don't want to talk about it anymore." Loki reached into the lunchbag he'd carried in his satchel and pulled out his second sandwich. "Here," he said, holding it out to Thor, who took it and bit in. Loki almost always gave half his lunch to Thor, and despite how much Thor ate, every pound he gained was muscle; in the last year every remaining bit of a child's roundness on him had already also turned to muscle. Loki couldn't remember his own frame being any different than it was now, thin and wiry, and only a half an inch taller than Thor now that Thor had gained ground on the height advantage Loki'd had for a few years.

Thinking along similar lines, Thor launched into what had recently become one of his favorite big-brother lectures. "You should eat more, Brother," he began, taking a big bite out of Loki's sandwich. "You would gain more muscle that way. You're too thin."

"Mother says I'm perfectly healthy. And if you want me to eat more so badly, you should stop eating my lunch."

"Were you going to eat it?" Thor asked, mouth full, holding out Loki's sandwich.


Thor nodded and flashed a triumphant grin.

Loki rolled his eyes. He rarely won arguments with Thor, both because Thor's force of personality was so strong and because Thor ignored logic to such an extent that arguing a point was simply an exercise in futility – Thor would consider himself the victor over a point concerning a goat when they'd been arguing over a birch tree.

"You better hurry up and finish my lunch or we're still going to be late for class."

Thor looked up to the sun; his eyes widened. He nodded and crammed the rest of the sandwich in his mouth, then grabbed his satchel and canister of water.

Loki stood up, held out his hand, and helped pull Thor up, biting back a reminder of what Mother said about shoveling food into your mouth. He couldn't restrain himself entirely, though. "Why did you end things with Hervor again, Brother?"

"She ate with her mouth open. It was disgusting," Thor said with his mouth full.

Loki laughed at his brother's seemingly complete oblivion. He took a step forward, toward the palace, but Thor put a hand on his shoulder and stopped him.

"Loki…thank you." Serious sky-blue eyes fixed on Loki's gray-blue eyes.

"For what?"

"For distracting me. I know you did it on purpose. And I hardly thought about it at all, until just now. So, thank you."

"You're welcome," Loki said. "Luckily you're extremely easy to distract," he added, but for all his teasing, he knew Thor wasn't half as dumb as he accused him of being. Or as oblivious.

"If only history could be so distracting," Thor said glumly as the brothers resumed their walk back to the palace.

"Don't you remember? We're starting a modern history unit today – the war against Jotunheim. You'll like that."

"Oh, that's right! That should be fun. It won't be as good as when Father tells us about it, though. I like his stories best."

"Me, too," Loki agreed, fondly recalling the times when they were younger and their father would take them to see the Ice Casket, or the tapestries in the west hall, or the bifrost observatory, take one of their hands in one of his and regale his wide-eyed sons with stories of the greatness of Asgard. Their own father – just a father and yet so much more – had convinced the Vanir to lay down their weapons and recognize Asgard's ultimate sovereignty, quelled stirrings of aggression on Alfheim, Niflheim, and Svartalfheim, and, most enthralling for the boys, thoroughly defeated the warmongering Frost Giants on both Midgard and Jotunheim. There was no better history teacher in all the realms than the one who had done all these things himself.

"Come on, we better run," Loki said, taking off.

"Wait up!" Thor called, picking up his pace and breaking into a lumbering run.

With three sandwiches, an apple, and most of his water in his stomach, he struggled to keep up, even when Loki slowed and waved him on. Before long he was pressing a hand to his side, and Loki laughed and taunted him all the way back to the classroom.

M & M

In the next chapter, Loki and Frigga sweetness.

If you're ever interested in how this story came into existence, please read the Magic & Mead section of my profile page.

If you're reading both Beneath and M&M, you may note that chapters here are shorter and the plotting is less complex. There are some dramatic moments, but this story is not ultimately about dramatic moments. It's about these brothers dealing with what would be for them fairly typical bumps and stumbles along the way to growing up...with some glimpses of how things could have gone so wrong. Some of this is fairly subtle, bonus points to you for picking up on all the little subtle clues. As in real life, no one in this story is perfect. If you're reading Beneath, a few passages in Magic & Mead will look familiar, though not quite word-for-word.

Allow me to take a moment to be super-responsible and put in a warning. This story involves - among other things - consumption of strong alcohol by teenaged boys. These teenaged boys are making a mistake. But you would be making a far worse one if you did what they do, teenager or not. They are Asgardian ( of them is anyway, but don't tell the other, he doesn't know about that yet). You are Midgardian. Their bodies are much stronger than yours. I will put an additional warning on one or two particular chapters. Please forgive me if I sound too preachy. But if you did what happens in this story, you would probably be dead, okay?

A "world-building" note: For my own purposes I had to come up with an explanation for the "they look 28 but they're 1,000" thing that didn't involve them being toddlers for 200 years...because that's just weird. We humans already mature at a really slow rate compared to other mammals. So my take on it is that they mature at the same rate as humans for about 10 years, then their growth begins to slow relative to us until about 20, at which point it really slows. So if Thor is 15, maturationally in human terms he's probably about 14. Not a huge deal, then, but there are references to the 10th and 20th birthday milestones that are taken for granted and not particularly explained in the story.

Whew. With all that out of the way, I hope you have enjoyed this chapter. Your reviews/comments/questions are always welcome, and if the PM function is there, I'll respond. I love chatting about these characters. I do promise not to take up half the word count with Author's Notes from here on out!