For Christmas this year my younger sister, FrostedFangirl7413, and I wrote stories for each other (hers is called "Cookie Stories", and it is hilarious! I highly suggest you read it :3) and this is the story that I wrote for her. Her parameters for this story were for there to be lots of sibling fluff between Thor and Loki, and for Odin to die.

And so then this happened ;)

So yes, there is character death - although I can assure you that you will not be sad about it in the least XD This story is Humor, first and foremost. And actually might stray a bit into Parody.

Okay, my sister and I have a really, really close sibling relationship, that is actually kind of unusual in its closeness. Thor and Loki in this fic are even closer, if that's even possible.

And without further ado, I hope you enjoy the story!

Odin found Loki abandoned on a frozen rock.

Although whether a rock itself can actually freeze is debatable—really, it was just a chunk of ice. But 'frozen rock' sounds far more desolate than 'chunk of ice'.

But that aside, that was where Odin found Loki. And as he picked up the tiny giant, an Asgardian sized blue baby, he recognized the markings of Laufey's house on the child's forehead.

The child was crying desperately, blubbering and whimpering and reaching with tiny hands towards Odin's beard, large red eyes tearing up with emotions the child had yet no name for, and only knew that it hurt, and that this being was here and warm and surely would not leave him here.

And well, Odin had defeated Laufey; it was only fitting he dealt with Laufey's child, wasn't it?

Yet he was weary of death, and the thought that he would have to kill another soul—and a child at that—weighed heavily upon him, despite that he knew it was mercy compared to leaving the baby there to starve, since it definitely seemed as if the child was abandoned here to die, what with it being a runt and everything.

But as he began to set the babe down and reach for his sword, the child seemed to sense that he was being forsaken again, cried harder, and in desperation reached out, his cerulean skin changing to a Asgardian shade of porcelain, wide blood red eyes becoming a verdant green.

Odin paused, shocked.

The baby, realizing that he was no longer being lowered and that the being carrying him was straightening up and bringing him closer, abruptly stopped crying and smiled, cooing with delight.

And Odin thought: Well, this certainly changes things.

Now he had a meanings of which to bring the child to Asgard rather than abandon him here.

But what then? The child, small and now in the perfect semblance of an Asgardian, was a Frost Giant nonetheless.

However, Odin had a child of his own—a son by the name of Thor, a happy, blue-eyed blond-haired little babe, and Odin had high hopes for him.

He wanted Thor to become the best possible man he could be: a true hero, that would defend the realms and have his citizens respect and loyalty.

And well, what better way to craft a hero than to craft a villain alongside him? If Odin could take this Frost Giant baby and raise him as a second son, though subtly give him pain for his differences till his soul was adulterated with jealousy and hatred, a nemesis for his son, than Thor would have to grow all the stronger, and learn lessons by it.

This child could be a tool for Odin to use.

And thus with that resolve, Odin wrapped up the self-disguised Frost Giant in furs, making sure he remained unseen as Odin returned with his army back to Asgard.

Odin named the child Loki; a perfectly slick, sly name, he thought, for the liar and trickster Loki would grow up to be.

However, Odin had not quite anticipated however was just how much Thorwould take to Loki.

When the young Thor first laid eyes on Loki, whom Odin told him was his brother, Thor said, "He's so little! He will get eaten by monsters!"

"Nobody's going to get eaten by monsters," Odin admonished.

"You're right," Thor said, after a moment. "Loki won't get eaten by monsters—I will protect him!"

Thor waved around his toy hammer at the shadows on the wall, yelling at them to beware, because if they crept closer then the Mighty Thor would smite them and rip out their eyes to feed to Huginn and Muninn.

"Huginn and Muninn don't eat eyes," Odin told him with an exasperated sigh.

"Yes they do," Thor said, looking at his father in confusion. "They're ravens; ravens eat carnage. Can I hold him?"

Odin blinked at his sons abrupt topic change. "What?" he said.

"Loki," Thor said, nodding to the bundled baby in Odin's arms. "Can I hold him?"

"Make sure you don't drop him," Odin ordered, as he handed Loki to Thor, not minding being rid of the creature for the moment.

Taking the green-eyed babe in his arms, Thor looked down at Loki and smiled. "Hello Little Brother," he said with a smile. "I'm your Big Brother Thor! I am going to protect you from monsters and the from the world, because you're so little."

"Tho...?" Loki burbled, smiling with the pure innocent delight that only a baby can manage, as he reached up a tiny pale hand to tug on Thor's blond hair.

After that, they never went anywhere without each other—they slept together, bathed together, ate together, played together.

Before Loki was able to walk, Thor would carry him around the castle on his hip.

Loki especially liked the library. Even before he could read, Loki still enjoyed the comfort of the library, with its large fireplace and comfy chairs; with its scent of leather and aged paper, and the soft lights that eliminated all hard shadows.

It had been the library where Thor had taught Loki to crawl, and then later to walk, and then to jump, and then to run.

And oh, how they'd run out into the hallway and down the corridors and up and down the steps.

Loki fell so often his alabaster skin was constantly covered in bruises, but he never cried; Thor was always there to help him back to his feet.

And when Loki got tired Thor would carry him piggy-back, now that the younger boy was larger and old enough that he had grown long silky locks of raven-dark hair that fell just past his narrow shoulders.

"I'm going to grow my hair long, like you!" Loki said, grinning at his older brother, whose blond hair reached to the middle of his back.

"If you grow your hair out then you'll look like a girl," Thor said, laughing goodnaturedly in a way that was not at all mocking.

"That's okay," Loki grinned back. "Because you look like a girl too!"

"I don't look like a girl!" Thor said, lip protruding in a pout.

"I like your hair," Loki smiled, reaching up to tug on one of the blond curls at the nape of Thor's neck, continuing, "It makes me happy. It's so wavy and fluffy, and its got all these curls that look like the young tendrils of ferns."

"My hair looks like ferns now?!" Thor asked, aghast.

"Just the the way it curls!" Loki giggled. "Mine is all straight, so I don't get curls."

"At least it doesn't get all matted and tangled when you don't brush it," Thor pointed out with a huff, before his gaze brightened, and he started running down the hall yelling, "SOMEBODY GET ME A KNIFE SO I CAN CUT MY HAIR!"

Needless to say, nobody gave the crazy blond child a knife, especially with the crazy dark child running behind him and saying, "Don't give it to him! He threatened me with it!"

Finally though one of the servants took a pair of scissors and trimmed Thor's hair for him, simply to get him to shut up and stop running around and tripping everybody.

And when Thor got his hair cut, Loki insisted that he get his hair cut as well.

And when Thor started training to become a warrior, Loki snuck out from under the watch of those who were supposed to be watching him and crept down to the training area, where he would sit somewhere concealed and observe his brother and the older kids learning to fight.

Sometimes he waved at Thor, and Thor would stumble a move from distraction and lose the bout. But he would just blame the wind and send Loki a secret grin.

Then when Loki was old enough to start training, Odin said no, on account of him being too small.

Loki talked. "I can be strong too. You just have to give me a chance to prove myself, Father."


Loki pouted and widened his eyes, clutching at Odin's large, old hand. "Please, Father? I'm asking nicely. And if I want to go, there's nothing you can do to stop me, anyway, so you might as well just give your permission."


Odin finally had to say yes.

While Thor had immediately taken to the hammer and ax, Loki was immediately drawn to throwing knives and bows and arrows.

"You'll need someone to cover your back," Loki explained to his older brother seriously. "And in case I'm not close to you and we get separated in battle, I need to be able take down our enemies from a distance."

"You think too much," Thor had laughed, nudging his little brother in the shoulder.

"You don't think enough," Loki had countered, nevertheless with a knowing smile, as he stumbled back from the nudge.

But if Odin had thought the other children would cause a rift between his son and the Jotun, he was entirely wrong.

"He's too little," Hogun said, shaking his head at the short, skinny, black-haired, green-eyed boy that followed his tall, broad, blond, blue-eyed older brother. Loki was over a head shorter than the rest, as his limbs were wiry while already the others were growing buff.

"I may be little, but I'm fast!" Loki protested, straightening up, though it didn't do much for him.

"Uh huh," Hogun snorted.

Thor turned to Loki, saying, "Go get him."

"Byah!" Loki cried, as he charged Volstagg, and as the larger boy bent down to catch him in a chokehold Loki slid between the boy's legs and sprang up behind him, kicking Hoguns feet out from under him.

"Told you so," said Loki brightly as he held out a hand to help Hogun up. "My name's Loki, by the way. What's yours?"

"Hogun," the boy said gruffly.

"Nice to meet you, Hogun!" Loki grinned.

Still though, Hogun stared after the young prince in bewilderment as Loki jogged over to his older brother, who chuckled and patted his head.

There probably should have been embarrassment on Hogun's part to embitter him towards Thor's little brother, but, well, it proved that Loki was able to be with the others in training; and as long as he wasn't incompetent, it was okay for him to be there.

(Loki had the advantage of having watch Thor training for the years before he could. Not to mention he'd convinced Thor to teach him some even before he started training.)

And maybe Loki had to prove himself to the others as well—but so did Sif. And Loki at least wasn't a sore loser.

"Let's try again," Loki would grin.

Yes, maybe he was little and weak, but Thor believed in him.

And that was enough for Loki.

"Aren't you jealous of your brother?" Sif asked him once.

Loki crinkled his brow. "Why would I be jealous?"

"He is better than you," Sif pointed out, as they both watched Thor in the ring as he clashed swords with Fandral, soon disarming the other blond and sending his sword clattering to the dirt floor with clatter and a glint of metal, stirring up dust that tickled Loki's nose.

"At fighting," Loki acknowledged with a nod. "But I—" Loki sneezed, his sentence abruptly being cut off as he accidentally teleported over to the other side of the arena.

"Woops!" Loki snickered under his breath, as he ran back around the edge of the training ground, avoiding Thor and Volstagg's sparking weapons as he found Sif again sitting on the fence and jumped to sit beside her. It took him a couple tries, on account of him being so short, but eventually he did clamber to the top of the stone wall (it was even taller than Odin, after all).

Loki continued as if nothing had happened: "Why should I be jealous of what Thor has? I have Thor's love, after all."

Sif looked away, her long blond hair falling into her face.

"Are you jealous?" Loki asked her softly.

She didn't answer, so Loki continued, "Don't worry, I won't tell Thor you have a crush on him."

With a sharp intake of breath Sif looked up at him with her dark brown eyes wide in alarm, but Loki just made a gesture as if he was locking his lips with an invisible key, before grinning at her.

"Thor likes you," he told Sif, patting her hand on the wall beside him and smiling reassuringly. "And one day he'll probably like-like you as well. Although I can't promise anything. But you are pretty, and good at fighting too."

Sif just stared at him for a moment, before giggling and nudging him with her shoulder, nearly knocking him off the wall.

"You're too charming for your own good, you know that right?" she said.

Loki beamed. "Of course! How else do you think I manage to get us all out of trouble all the time?"

Much to Odin's chagrin, of course. But for some reason instead of Loki being derided for being different, it turned out that despite him having magic and preferring to do things differently from most Asgardians, Loki could endear himself to anyone—and, as it seemed, everyone.

Odin blamed the boy's huge green eyes and his damn contagious smile.

Thor was Asgard's favorite.

But oh, Loki was always, always Thor's favorite.

(Thor's favorite sound: Loki's laughter. Thor's favorite color: Loki's eyes. Thor's favorite stories: Loki's lies.)

"Show me some magic, Brother," Thor would say, and Loki would look up from whatever book he was reading and smile.

"Yes, of course."

Once Loki crafted Thor colorful illusions illustrating their favorite storybook that Frigga would read them at night.

Another time Loki conjured hundreds of orange and black butterflies that filled the air of his chamber and covered him and Thor from head to toe, before they all combusted into gold sparkles.

Yet another time Loki had dragged Thor outside to the woods, where he'd then raised his hands and used the dried leaves that coated the forest floor to create two horses that the boys could ride. They smelled of mildew, but their manes and tails rustled pleasantly in the wind as they galloped, and they didn't spook at strange noises or hesitate to jump the highest walls—if they clipped their legs, the leaves would scatter at contact but quickly reform.

"One day I'll know how to give them wings," Loki promised his brother. "And then we can go wherever we wish!"

"Where do you wish to go?" Thor asked him.

"Anywhere," said Loki, shaking his head with a smile. "Everywhere. As long as you're with me, Brother, we can do anything and I will be happy to do everything, or even nothing."

And sometimes they would do nothing; just lie there under the trees and staring up at the blue sky through the dancing leaves in a silence that was warm as sunshine on winter's skin and spoke of contentment and a relationship nobody could hope to understand.

They were growing too close for Odin's liking. Far, far too close.

His plan was failing horribly.

Before, Odin had been hoping that Asgard would simply turn against the Jotun on its own, but now he began to take a direct hand in events.

Odin tried to prod Loki with temptation.

"Only one of you can ascend to the throne," he told them on a visit to the weapons vault. "But both of you were born to be kings."

Later that night, when Loki crept into Thor's room after a nightmare, Thor asked, "What do you make of Father's words?"

Loki snorted. "I think Father was just saying that though we're both princes we should keep in mind that we can't both be Kings. Everyone knows you're going to be King, Brother. And that's perfectly fine with me!" he grinned in the dark. "You can be the figurehead, and I can always be the one who stays behind the scenes and manipulates everything."

"Loki, you mischievous little boy, you!" Thor said goodnaturedly, poking his younger brother.

Loki stuck his tongue out at Thor, but since it was too dark to see, Loki said, "I just stuck my tongue out at you."

"I just stuck my tongue out at you, too," Thor said, amusement evident in his voice.

Snuggling closer, Loki tucked his head under Thor's chin. "No really, don't worry about me—I don't want to be King."

"What do you want?" Thor asked.

"I just want to be your equal."

"Loki, you'll always be my equal," Thor said softly, as he stroked his brother's soft hair in the dark, the younger boy's body curled up against his chest. "Always. You never need to worry about that, okay? Don't pay attention to what anyone else says. Because I will never see you as anything less."

When they reached their teens, and Loki had sprouted up so that despite still being lean and lanky he was now nearly as tall as his brawny older brother, Odin began adding Mjolnir into the equation.

"One of you will be worthy to wield the magical hammer, Mjolnir," Odin told them. "And he will be Asgard's champion."

Loki rolled his eyes when Odin had turned and left while they stayed to inspect the hammer, saying to his brother, "That's pointless of him to tell us that. Of course it's you that's going to wield Mjolnir."

"How do you know?" Thor asked, brow wrinkling. "You are no less worthy than I!"

"Because that's what it says," Loki said, pointing to the ancient runes engraved in the side of the hammer. He read aloud: "'Whosoever holds this hammer, if he be worth, shall possess the power of... Thor.' And the hammer has been here in the weapons vault for longer than I've lived—I asked one of the guards—and so obviously it was made for you."

"You can read that?" Thor asked in disbelief, narrowing his eyes at the ancient inscription chiseled into the hammer's uru surface.

"It's the ancient language of magic," Loki explained. "It was a hard study: it took me an entire evening."

Thor choked on air. "A hard study only takes a single evening?"

"What?" Loki asked in confusion.

"You, my little brother, are a genius," Thor said with a grin, punching Loki in the shoulder. "I have no doubt that soon you will be the most powerful sorcerer in Asgard!"

"And you the mightiest warrior!" Loki returned.

And with that they both left; Thor never even tried to lift the hammer.

Odin tried to reward Loki with ridicule.

There would often be competitions of the warriors' skill, of which Odin would witness and be judge.

And, well, Thor always won.

Loki, on the other hand, also always beat his opponent—but he never won.

"Loki has forfeited his title of Victor by cheating," Odin would say, sneering slightly, face lined in obvious disappointment.

As indeed, Loki never followed the rules; he weaved and he teased and he tripped and he conjured.

And he laughed.

"These competitions don't matter," Loki told Thor, when the older boy was fuming afterwards that Loki was always denied recognition. "They're domesticated. Simply for show. In war, rules don't matter; all that matters is staying alive. And so if my 'tricks' can keep the both of us alive, then I don't care how they're viewed in the arena."

"But it's not fair!" Thor protested.

Loki shrugged. "I know I'm not following the rules. I need to keep up my reputation of mischief, don't I?"

"If you can call it mischief," Thor snorted, chuckling. "Somehow I think taking the alcohol out of the ale and always happening to have what it is I've forgotten or can't find hardly counts."

Loki grinned that contagious grin of his, and Thor couldn't help but grin back.

Things got harder for Loki, though, when Odin banned him from using or learning magic.

For once, Loki was more than a little irate.

"Now this," Loki spat, as he paced the library, finding that all the magic books had been removed. "This is scandalous!"

"Then don't listen to him," Thor cajoled. "I'll help you find the books! Or if they can't be found I'll help you find more books, and I'll help you practice. You can even use me to test spells on, if you want."

The corners of Loki's lips quirked. "Nay, Brother, I wouldn't want to risk hurting you."

"Well then, what do you think he did with the books?" Thor inquired, knowing he needed to get Loki thinking strategically, rather than fuming.

"He wouldn't burn them," Loki said immediately. "He couldn't get rid of them permanently—there's too much magic in their pages. If unleashed, it would be disastrous."

"So he hid them," Thor deduced.

"Indeed," Loki nodded, fingers tapping against the table in a four-legged horse rhythm. "He would hide them where he thought I would never look, which means we just have to do the opposite of what he would expect. He would expect us to search in places that are off-limits—locked places, dark places, secret places. We know all the hiding places in the castle, after all."

"Then where would he hide them?" Thor said in confusion, blinking.

A pause. "He would send them away," Loki realized, eyes lifting from the floor to his brother's face, as a wry grin slowly spread there. "And I'm not adverse to cheating."

That was how the two princes found themselves in the Observatory before Heimdall, the gatekeeper with the amber eyes.

"Where did Odin put the magic books?" Thor demanded bluntly. "That's an order, by the way!"

"I cannot say," Heimdall answered in monotone.

"According to Asgard's Statute 937-56233, Subsection Æ, the mandate of a member of the sovereign can be overridden by that of another member of the royal family in matters that personally affect them as well as the safety of the Nine Realms. And since Odin's decree that I be banned from learning magic inhibits my ability to both control my own power and prevent accidents, as well as my ability to protect Asgard in her times of need; thus the order is an obviously unintelligent one given under the pretense of logic that proves faulty, so you must hereby forgo Odin's order that you reveal nothing and obey Thor's command," Loki said smoothly, green eyes unblinking.

Heimdall stared at him a moment. "What are you, a lawyer?" the gatekeeper asked.

"I do not know what a lawyer is," Loki stated evenly, still not blinking.

Ah, right—lawyers were a Midgardian thing, Heimdall remembered. Asgard didn't have any.

"Very well," Heimdall relented. "The magic books were transported to Alfheim, where they were donated to the capital's extensive library."

"Thank you, Heimdall!" Loki said, face transforming from stoic to grinning, the entire Observatory brightening. "You have been ever so helpful!"

And with that he grabbed Thor's arm and loped off.

"Do you remember those leaf horses I conjured once?" Loki said, after Thor had inquired about where they were going, as they passed the stables and headed towards the forest.


"Well, I learned how to give them wings!"

This time Loki only created one large horse, and Thor held on around Loki's waist as the leaf horse galloped through the forest towards the ocean, then out for the rocky beaches, snapping out its wings just as it splashed into the shallowest tendrils of waves, flapping every now and then as its hooves barely touched the waves, droplets of cold water splashing up against the princes' trousers.

The flying leaf horse flew straight towards one of the large, mountainous islands, lifting higher into the sky and aiming for a small crack in the rock.

"Loki...?" Thor said uncertainly.

"Hush," Loki commanded, as he guided the horse into the crack, leaf wings scraping the glowing stones that lined the cave as the horse increased speed, sparks flying.

"Loki!" Thor cried.

But before he could fully panic, there was a rush of darkness, a tugging at his sternum, and he suddenly found that they were flying in the lavender sky over the sage fields of Alfheim, the herbs' smell wafting over them.

"If it were easy, everybody would do it," Loki said, turning back to grin at him.

There was a moment's pause from the blond god, before finally he grinned hugely. "That," he said, "was awesome! Let's do it again!"

"On the way back," Loki promised him.

They secured their horse in the forest, and walked into the city with its high buildings, similar to Asgardian architecture except more airy than jagged, and with colors of silver and pearl rather than golds.

"The elves look pretty, but they're dangerous," Loki informed Thor as they weaved through the crowds of tall, pointy-eared figures. "Just make sure you don't make eye contact."

Once they'd located the library, Thor dared to inquire, "How do you plan to bring all the books back?"

"Magic pouch," Loki explained with a smirk, tapping the black leather traveling pouch he had slung around his hips.

They found the magic books from Asgard (and a few more as well), and managed to leave Alfheim without incident and return to Asgard, whereupon they went up to Loki's room.

They couldn't very well return the books to the library—Odin would notice—so Loki hid the books beneath his bed, throwing on a concealment charm and chaining them there.

Thor was confused about the chains.

"In case the castle floods," Loki explained, "They won't go floating everywhere."

"Why would the castle flood?" Thor pointed out. "It's not like it rains in here."

Loki shrugged. "You never know," he answered, before smiling mischievously.

Supported wholly by Thor, Loki continued his magic studies, with Odin being none the wiser.

But though he'd banned the use of magic, deriding it, Odin still wasn't done trying to manipulate Loki into a place of jealousy and hatred.

(Why, oh why did the Frost Giant baby he took have to be so intrinsically sweet? Sometimes Odin almost felt bad about trying to turn him into a villain. Well, almost.)

But always, always was every problem the fault of Loki—in Odin's eyes Thor could do no wrong and Loki could no right, and they were treated as such.

Odin expected the very worst from Loki, and refused to see any good.

Thor loathed it. "But it was my fault, not Loki's!" he would protest. "I should be the one to get punished!"

"Better I than you," Loki would say with a weak little smile, before silently taking his beating,
Thor sobbing as he was forced to watch.

Loki never uttered a peep, no matter how many times the whip lashed against his back.

"Don't cry," Loki would say afterwards, wiping the tears from Thor's tan cheek with a pale thumb as Thor carefully helped him back up to his chambers, where he would clean Loki's wounds, wiping away the red that dripped down Loki's lacerated back. "Don't cry, Brother. I'm alright—I'm strong, I can take it."

"Why?" Thor breathed, as he cleaned the whiplashes and bandaged Loki's back. "Why does Odin do this to you?"

Loki shrugged, and was unable to hide the wince from the pain that resulted from the movement. "Because he thinks you need to realize that your actions have consequences," Loki guessed. "And he knows that physically hurting me hurts you more than physically hurting you would hurt."

"He's using my love against me?" Thor asked in disbelief, as Loki stood, thin chest wrapped in white bandages.

"You are to become a warrior," Loki pointed out, lips twitching wryly. "In war there is pain and death and sacrifice and loss. I can only imagine he's trying to toughen up your huge heart."

"That doesn't make sense!" Thor protested, angry tears once more brimming in his blue eyes.

"It doesn't," Loki agreed. He smiled at his brother. "But that's okay—Odin's trying to break something, but we don't have to let him succeed. If we remain strong, eventually he will hit so hard that the lash will ricochet back and knock him down."

"He's King," Thor said monotonously.

"Remember what you used to always tell me in training? When I was so much smaller than the other kids?" Loki asked, as he fumbled with his tunic, trying to find the arm holes.

Thor reached out and helped him. "Yes," Thor said, smiling faintly. "'The bigger they are, the harder they fall.'" he recited, as he pulled the olive green tunic over Loki's head, tugging it down so that Loki's face was once more visible, and he could see his little brother's smirk.

"Exactly," Loki said.

Loki's penchant for mischief wasn't Odin's only problem—there was also the fact that Loki and Thor were nigh inseparable.

Sometimes Odin would lock Loki in the castle's dungeons, only to find that Thor had carried his blanket and pillow down to the cold bowels of the castle to keep his little brother company, setting himself up outside Loki's cell.

"Is there a way for you to escape?" Thor asked, reaching up as if he wanted to place his palm against the magical barrier, hesitating a few centimeters from it, the skin of his hand already tingling with the barrier's enchantment that burned anything that touched it.

Loki shook his head. "I haven't figured one out yet," he said, before adding cheerfully, "But if Odin keeps giving this as a punishment I certainly will eventually!"

However when Odin discovered that Thor stayed with Loki even when Loki was locked up, Odin locked Thor up as well, up in his chambers at the top of the castle.

Thor broke the window and went back down to the dungeons.

After that Odin locked Thor in a cell on the opposite side of the cold prison from his little brother, as the cells didn't have any windows to break.

The two princes drove the guards absolutely crazy.

Thor and Loki might not have been able to see each other, but they could still hear each other.

"HOW ARE YOU DOING, LOKI?" Thor yelled across the dungeon.





"WELL, IF WE HAVE TO SUFFER, SO SHOULD THEY," Loki called, sending the closest guard an impish smile.


And so they sang—song after boisterous drinking song at the top of their lungs until the guards ran out of the dungeon to complain, hands over their ears.

Loki and Thor laughed until their sides hurt and tears streamed down their faces.

When the guards returned with their figurative tails figuratively between their legs, they found that the two princes had escaped.

Nobody knew how they'd done it.

(But after that, Odin had the cells reinforced.)

(His sons didn't care.)

When Thor and Loki came of an age acceptable to be sent off on adventures, Odin sent them off on one.

"To test your mettle," he told them. And then of course gave them a task that fit pretty well under the label: Impossible.

"I need you to six," Odin declared, including Sif and the Warriors Three in the mission, "To determine the aether's location."

The was a heavy pause as the six young gods shared looks, varying between levels of befuddlement and alarm.

"Father—" Loki started, about to protest.

"HUUUUUUUURGH!" Odin said, pointing at his younger son, who pulled up short, brow creasing and eyes narrowing suspiciously.

"I will not tolerate protests or complaints," he said coldly. "That is your mission, and you shall complete it or die trying."

"Yes Father," Thor and Loki chorused, bowing their heads far less than they were supposed to, as the others echoed with, "Yes, my liege."

They turned to leave.

"Oh, and Loki?" Odin said.

Loki turned, raising his eyebrows. "Yes Father?" he said, voice syrupy with with viscid sweetness as he coaxed his expression into faux eagerness, clasping his hands behind his back.

"This mission is a dangerous one," the Allfather said severely. "Pray do not mess it up."

"But of course not," Loki said, shaking his head and smirking humorlessly at the foolish suggestion.

He left Odin wondering whether Loki had meant, 'Of course not' he wouldn't mess it up, or, 'Of course not' he would mess it up, and, whichever Loki meant, which one actually meant he would try to mess it up and which one meant he would try not to.

It made Odin's brain hurt, so he stopped thinking about it.

"We shall leave today!" Thor declared, his grimness at the pronouncement of their venture quickly turning to uru-hard determination.

"Can we not leave tomorrow morning?" Loki said reasonably, catching up to his brother in the golden corridor and stepping to walk in front of him, backwards. "We have higher chance of success if we do not act rashly, and I would like to use the rest of this day to peruse the Library for anything that might help us on our adventure."

Thor agreed, and so while he and the others sought out supplies they might need, Loki indeed spent the rest of that day, as well as most of the night, scouring for information on the aether and the Dark Elves who had wielded it.

What he discovered caused him to frown and knit his eyebrows—but there wasn't much he could do besides go and make sure that Thor didn't get himself killed.

Well before dawn Loki came straight from studying to his brother's chambers, loping over and standing there before the bed, beginning to poke Thor in the ribs.

"Get up, Brother," Loki said, not bothering to whisper. "We're leaving."

"Wha?" Thor started, his eyes snapping open to see Loki's ghostly face staring at him in the dark. "Another nightmare?" he asked, only to crease his brow in confusion, seeing that Loki was fully dressed and ready.

"No," Loki said in amusement. "We're leaving on the mission. Go collect your friends and meet me at the bifrost."

And with that Loki strode from the room, black coattails flapping behind him.

When they all met on the bifrost, fully awake despite the heavy darkness of the hour, they found Loki and Heimdall waiting for them.

"Heimdall knows not where the aether is," Loki informed them before their lips could even begin to form the question. "He can not see it."

"Then where are we going?" Sif asked.

"To Midgard," Loki answered.

Thor narrowed his eyes at his younger brother. What do you know that you're not telling us? he inquired silently.

"I will explain once we get there," Loki said, as Heimdall took the cue and opened the bifrost, directing it at the human planet. Loki started forward, Thor rushing to walk beside him while the others hesitated slightly.

Realizing they didn't exactly have a choice however, they walked into the rainbow stream as well, letting their bodies be jerked through space in a flurrying moment that was filled with stars viewed through the current of energy and color spectrum; it couldn't have lasted more than a few seconds before they were placed on Midgard, blinking as their eyes adjusted from the bright bifrost beam to the velvety violet night that cloaked the realm.

They'd been set in an inconspicuous spot: a small clearing surrounded by dense forest, though from the faint traces of woodsmoke in the air it wasn't too far from a town.

"This way," Loki said, beckoning them into the trees.

As they walked, Loki explained what he had learned. "Nearly every source states that all the Dark Elves are extinct and that the aether was destroyed at the end of the war where the Dark Elf Malekith tried to use the aether to restore Darkness to the Realms," Loki said.

Their footsteps were soft; the footsteps of hunters. The leaves beneath their feet barely rustled.

"The Aesir prevailed and defeated the Dark Elves, supposedly killing them all and destroying the aether. However, a notable fact is that the aether, despite being a liquid, is one of the so called 'Infinity Gems', that millennium ago the titan Thanos sought to bring together in his Infinity Gauntlet, which is a subject I don't need to get into."

Loki continued, "There are six Infinity Gems, and the sheer power that they each hold renders them virtually indestructible, such that it is entirely plausible that rather that being incapable of destroying the aether, King Bor of Asgard simply ordered that it be hidden away where nobody would ever find it, the rumor that it was destroyed being of the purpose to deter any from searching for it.

"There was only one source I found that didn't directly state that the aether had been destroyed, and all it said was: 'the aether disappeared into darkness.' And since Heimdall cannot see it, I can only assume that it his hidden somewhere that is not in any of the Nine Realms; and we can deduce that it is hidden rather than destroyed by the fact that Odin sent us to locate it, although since he gave us no hints to its whereabouts it's also a safe deduction that even Odin does not know the aether's location."

"If that's so," Fandral ventured, "What are we doing here, in the world of mortals?"

Loki smiled slightly, though since he was in the lead, not to mention it was dark at night beneath the trees with barely any light coming from the sliver of Midgard's single moon, nobody saw it.

"We are retrieving an object that could allow us to locate the aether," Loki said, as he tilted his head back to cast a glance over his shoulder at the others. "Have any of you heard of the tesseract?"

"That's another one of the Infinity Gems," Thor said immediately. He pursed his lips uncertainly. "Isn't it?" he added.

"You've been paying more attention to lessons than you let on," Loki said teasingly. "Indeed, the tesseract is another of the Infinity Gems, and the only one we know its location. The tesseract is the Gem of Space, and since the aether, considered the Gem of Power, is no doubt located in space, by utilizing the tesseract we should be able to locate it."

Thor's teeth worried at his lower lip. "That means you're going to have to use the tesseract's powers, doesn't it?"

"Unless you or one of the others has a knowledge of sensing and tracing magical auras," Loki said with a slight snort, knowing that they didn't.

"The gem's power could consume you," Thor pointed out, voice deepening with apprehension.

"Which is exactly why you're here," Loki said, as they came to the edge of the woods looking down upon a little town, and Loki turned to punch Thor lightly in the shoulder and offer a reassuring smile.

They walked down into the sleeping town, weaving through the deserted streets till Loki brought them to a church. Holding a hand over the door, there was a spark of green from Loki's pale fingers and the faintest of pops from the door, which swung open silently on its hinges, now unlocked.

The six young gods slipped inside.

After casting a spell to make sure the men there would neither hear them moving about nor see them if they woke up and wandered the building, Loki led the others to a main room, where a coffin was lying.

"Is it in there?" Sif asked.

"I doubt it," Loki answered, "It would be too easy. But feel free to check."

Thor easily picked up the coffin lid, finding a crystal cube clutched in the dead mortal's skeleton hands.

"A replica," Loki said, picking it up and tossing it from hand to hand, before giving it back to the dead man.

While Thor replaced the coffin lid, Loki's eyes flicked over the room. His gaze landed on a carving of Yggdrasil on the wall, tracing across its surface and down to the roots, where one ended in the head of a snake.

Crossing over to it, Loki let his fingers hover there for a moment before he pressed the snake's eye.

A secret recess popped open, and Loki smiled as he took out the object that was carefully wrapped in fabric.

"Found it," he called to the others, closing the compartment with his hip as he turned and strode over to them. "We can leave now."

"Won't the mortals know that it's gone?" Sif pointed out.

Loki shook is head. "They're sworn to secrecy—they know where it is but do not look upon it. It's not for the eyes of ordinary men, after all."

"Good thing we're gods then," Thor said. "And not even ordinary gods at that!"

They returned to Asgard just as dawn was breaking over the distant mountains in a warm rosy glow.

Loki promptly sat down cross-legged on the golden floor of the Observatory, removing the tesseract from his travel pouch, beginning to unwrap the black cloth it was swathed in. He looked up at his older brother.

"If I start grinning maniacally or something and won't let go of it, punch me in the face. You have my permission to break my nose," he told Thor. "But make sure you take the cube in the cloth—don't touch it for any longer than necessary."

Finishing extracting the tesseract, he lifted the glowing blue cube in his hands, taking a sharp intake of breath as his eyes flared the same iridescent blue, before he closed them, calming his breathing as his mind probed space through the gem.

Space was vast—so incredibly vast, and Loki felt like he was drowning, an ant crushed beneath the weight of an endless ocean.

There were voids and black holes and supernovas and creatures that feasted on lost souls just waiting to make him fall, suck him up, burn him up, gulf him down.

But before he could be pulled under he grabbed for something to hold on to—Thor.

He was doing this for his brother.

And with that thought in mind, Loki began sending out tendrils of conscience, for the beads of power like solitary candles in the cool and inky darkness.

There was one Loki felt, strangely close, power throbbing against his skin from underneath the gold glow of Asgard—something dark, dark and red, that crackled with discontent and ravenous, parasitic hunger.

Closing in to examine it, Loki was suddenly aware of another mind surfing the tidal waves of space, and his figurative hackles rose immediately, feeling ancient power now from this dark object and this being, which sung of a strange, eerie violet, nearly ultra.

Either Loki found it, or it found him, and suddenly a laugh echoed through Loki's mind like a thunder clap off mountains.

"I have found you, child," the gravelly voice with the echoing quality growled. "You have something of mine. And not only that, but you have led me to another."

Loki retreated back to his body like a deer from a wolf.

A minuted passed.

Two minutes passed.

Three minutes.


Thor and the others glanced at each other in concern.

Seven minutes, and Loki was beginning to tremble and shake his head, sweat beading on his pale brow and making him look febrile.

Unable to stand it any longer, Thor took the black cloth in his hands and stepped towards his brother with fear in his eyes and determination hardening his jawline as he clenched his teeth. "That's enough," he said, voice nearly a growl.

"Wait," Sif said, taking Thor's arm, expression concerned but nevertheless wary. "What if he hasn't found it? And he isn't smiling maniacally or anything."

Thor paused, turning again to look at his little brother, when suddenly Loki's glowing blue eyes shot open and he threw the cube away from him, uttering several colorful curse words.

A startled Hogun caught the cube as it came at his face, whereupon his dark eyes immediately bugged and he tossed it away from himself at Volstagg, who threw it away to be caught by Sif, who chucked it at Fandral, who dropped it like it was a hot potato.

Rushing forward, Thor caught the cube in the cloth before it could hit the ground—who knew what it would have done on contact.

"Nice catch!" Fandral called, though he was still shaking his head, trying to clear it.

Loki started staggering to his feet and Thor crossed over to steady him.

"Do not ever use that cube again," Thor said seriously.

Smiling wryly at him, Loki answered, "Well, I don't need to at the moment. I know where the aether is."

The question,"Where is it?" was chorused amongst the group.

And their faces shared the same expression of surprise when Loki answered, "In Asgard."

"Or perhaps, more accurately, beneath Asgard," Loki amended after a few moments of stunned silence. "It actually makes sense, when you think about it: the aether is made of pure power, which is extremely difficult to conceal, and so in order to keep magical beings from sensing it, the aether is hidden beneath Asgard, which is the most magical of all the Nine Realms, so that the aura of Asgard overpowers the aura of the aether."

"So," Volstagg began cautiously, "It's like how if you have rakfisk on the table, you can't smell any of the other courses because rakfisk stinks so strongly."

"Exactly," Loki nodded, grinning.

Fandral snorted, saying to Volstagg, "How just like you to compare everything to food."

"Well you always compare everything to flirting with girls," Volstagg shot back. "And in this case I won, since you can't seem to come up with one."

"On the contrary, my friend. It is the exact reason why I wear cologne—so that the ladies cannot smell my sweat," Fandral declared, seeming quite proud of himself for coming up with that.

"Shut up, you two," Sif growled in annoyance. She kicked Fandral in the behind, sending him crashing into the redheaded boy, the both of them demanding to know what that was for.

Sif just pointed to where Thor and Loki were already on their horses and galloping down the bifrost. "Because otherwise you're going to get left behind," she said, before she too swung up onto her steed and, clicking her tongue, urged her horse after the two princes.

"Some kind of an adventure this is," Thor grumbled, as the six of them sailed on one of the winged boats towards the edge of the waterfall that rimmed Asgard. "I was hoping we would at least get to slay some trolls, if not a dragon. Now, battling a dragon—that would be a fine adventure! Not like this sailing over the edge of the realm in order to fly beneath it and find some random cave to locate some random Infinity Gem."

"Maybe we'll get lucky, and there will be a dragon guarding the aether," Loki said optimistically from where he stood at the back of the boat, hands on the tiller.

(Loki was the best pilot, after all. And if they were going to sail off the edge of Asgard...)

Thor perked up. "Do you really think so? Oh, how my sword arm itches!"

"There won't be a dragon," Hogun said grimly. "We never get lucky."

"Well, then maybe there will be a secret door," Loki offered, not about to let Hogun's pessimism get to him. "And a riddle to solve to get in!"

"Please no," Thor groaned. "No more riddles! I swear I still have a headache from the last one you asked me."

"It was amusing," Loki nodded with an impish grin, reaching out a booted foot to poke his brother's leg. "I still have no idea how you came up with the idea that the answer was 'pants.' Seriously—pants disappear when it rains?"

Thor, acting several hundred years younger than his age, stuck his tongue out at Loki.

Now, most waterfalls roar.

This of course is from the falling water hitting the pooled water below.

And thus since the huge waterfall that edged Asgard was completely silent, as the water crashed down into space and thus crashed into nothing, and just kept falling and falling and falling.

Nothing to hit, no noise to make.

And since the waterfall was silent, the distracted teens' only warning that they were about to go over the edge was Loki's lips thinning and the skin around his eyes tightening in concentration, his knuckles becoming even whiter than usual as they gripped the tiller, before suddenly the boat was tipping over the edge and someone (or rather, someones) certainly screamed, although they'd never admit it.

Loki cried, "Hold on!" as the ship went completely vertical, and then he was pulling the tiller up and back and the boat leveled out and shot backwards through the stream of water, whirling around just in time for them all to see the rocky bottom of Asgard just before they crashed into it.

Of course, however, they didn't crash into it.

The tip of the ship's nose tipped down, its strangely agile metal wings directing it down in a dive, following the line of the terrain, rock flashing past above them.

Asgard's bottom wasn't flat, but rather like an upside-down mountain (though lacking any flora or fauna), which interestingly enough appeared to be just the right height (or would that be depth?) to balance out the golden castle of Asgard on its top.

Loki guided them to the peak of the upside-down mountain, circling around it a couple times.

"Tell me if you see a cave entrance," he ordered.

After a few minutes Hogun said, "There!" and pointed to what appeared to be but a crevice.

Pulling closer though, they found that the entire ship managed to fit through if the wings folded slightly, which resulted in them having to dive up.

"You senses are keen as always, Hogun," Loki acknowledged with a smile.

At first it was pitch dark, the only light coming from the few glowing green orbs that Loki had conjured to hover just above the boat.

But after winding through a small tunnel, they eventually came to a large, open chamber, illuminated with eerie red and gray lighting that seemed to center around a large stone pedestal that stood on a stone peninsula, jutting out in the middle of the chamber.

Loki brought the boat up next to the horizontal stretch of rock, a fair distance away from the pedestal, letting the ship hover there as they all got out.

"I don't like this," Hogun voiced gruffly.

The others nodded agreement, though a sense of duty prompted them to approach the pedestal, which thrummed with power that vibrated the air, tingling their lungs and making the hairs on the backs of their necks stand on end.

As they came cautiously closer, stopping a few feet away, they noticed how the pedestal was comprised of two stones, one hovering just above the other, a strange red substance writhing between them, so red at times as to be nearly black.

Not only though does the aether represent power—it also recognizes it, which is why, though all the gods were of equal distance away, it lashed out at the sorcerer.

"Loki!" Thor cried in alarm, pushing his little brother out of the way of the ravenous red tendrils.

Only, however fast Thor was, he wasn't quite fast enough; the aether latched around Loki's wrist, and Thor's wrist as well.

There was a confused moment of flurrying red and black, coruscating and hissing everywhere, even as Thor and Loki were traveling through the air due to the elder boy's attempt to knock the younger out of the way.

And then a very befuddled aether disappeared, half seeping into Loki's skin and half seeping into Thor's, as the two boys tumbled to the stone, the power flooding through their veins knocking them out cold.

"What in the Nine Realms was that?!" Sif shrieked, running over to the unconscious princes, placing fingers against their necks looking for a pulse see if they were alive or dead.

Fandral cursed in shock and fear, pausing his colorful soliloquy only to press an ear to Thor's chest and then to Loki's to make sure they were still breathing.

While he did this, Hogun checked their wrists for pulses, and Volstagg places a hand gently over each of their mouths to check for breath.

Sighing in relief when they were satisfied that both boys were still alive, they all sat back on their heels and tried to calm down. Tried to think.

They glanced at the pedestal, noticing how the there was now no distance between the two stones that had been hovering apart.

"Is..." Fandral started, licking his lips uncertainly. "Is the aether inside them now?"

"So it would seem," Sif answered dismally.

Taking Loki over her shoulder she carried his lean frame back to the boat, setting him down gently on the floor as Volstagg set Thor down beside him.

"Alright, who wants to drive though the long, dark and winding tunnel?" Fandral asked, trying so hard to sound cheerful that instead he just sounded like he was in severe pain, his voice pitching a few octaves higher than normal and cracking.

There was an awkward pause.

Hogun said nothing. Sif looked away. Volstagg's stomach rumbled.

"Right," Fandral said, trying to grin but only succeeding in looking like he was constipated. "I guess I'll drive then."

And with a resigned sigh, the blond crossed over to stand at the back of the boat, gripping the tiller in a white-knuckled hold and gritting his teeth as he steered the flying boat into the long, dark and winding tunnel, feeling immensely thankful that Loki's green orbs of light still hovered above the vehicle, lighting the way at least a little.

Odin looked up as the throne room doors were thrown open, and Sif and the Warriors Three entered with stony expressions, Loki over Sif's shoulder and Thor over Volstagg's.

They dumped the two limp bodies to the ground unceremoniously.

Sif's lips curled up in a snarl. "I hope you're happy now," she snapped.

Oh, how badly she wanted to see fear cross the Allfather's wizened features, to see him crack decrepitly, show that he actually cared for his sons...

But Odin's face remained emotionless and cold.

"Are they dead?" he asked, the way one would ask if it was raining outside if they didn't much care one way or the other—just a question, with no real emotion behind it.

Sif had to fight the urge to spit at him. "They're alive," she ground out. "They just have the aether inside of them."

Odin's only reaction was for his single eye to twitch slightly. "So you found it then."

"Does it matter?!" Sif nearly shrieked, hands clenching by her sides, her entire body quivering with barely suppressed terror and rage. "Thor and Loki could be dying!"

"Then take them to the Healing Rooms," Odin said coolly.

Her mouth fell open at the Allfather's detachment from the fate of his sons, but before she could say anything Fandral grabbed her shoulder, murmuring an urgent, "Let's go," in her ear.

He then bent down to pick up Loki while Hogun picked up Thor.

After one last scathing look at Odin, Sif turned and followed her comrades out of the throne room.

Laying the two unconscious boys in the Soul Forge, the healers examined the swirling red energy that was roiling in the prince's bodies, the healers frowning as they did so.

"The energy isn't enough to kill them quickly," one woman told the worried Sif and Warriors Three. "Thor and Loki are resilient boys. However, while this aether makes them more powerful it always weakens them, as it appears to feed off of life forces, and will kill them slowly. Loki will probably survive longer because of his magic core, as the aether feeds off his link to Yggdrasil instead of Loki himself. Thor, on the other hand..."

Jaws clenched and knuckles tightened.

"Can you exorcise the aether from them?" Volstagg inquired hopefully.

The healer shook her head, saying sadly, "We do not know. It would take us a while to try to figure out, and even if we did, we'd need an object fit to transfer the aether into."

"Can you do anything for them?" Sif pleaded—yes, pleaded. Sif is not normally one to plead, but these were far from normal circumstances, and her insides were twisting with trepidation.

"All we can do for now is make them comfortable," the healer informed her, as Thor and Loki were carried to two of the sick beds, adding, "And wait for them to wake up."

Sif and the Warriors Three gazed down at Thor and Loki's slack, sweat-covered faces.

"If they wake up," Hogun said gruffly.

"Hogun!" Sif cried in alarm, turning on the boy. "Don't say that!"

Fandral nodded in agreement. "Now is not the time for such pessimism, Sir Grim," he said, nearly snapping, but mostly succeeding in keeping his voice light. "Think happy thoughts."

"Happy thoughts..." Volstagg said, closing his eyes as his expression turned wistful. "Like freshly fried sausages, served with vegetables, potatoes, peas, and perhaps some gravy as well..."

Sometime later, Thor groaned, a hand coming up to his forehead as he blinked slowly at the gold ceiling above his head.

Questions flitted through his head, namely: Where Am I? What happened? Why does my entire body feel like its on fire?

Then it came rushing back to him like a flashflood through a desert that hasn't seen rain in centuries.

"Loki!" he cried, pushing himself to his feet like a shot, a wave of dizziness hitting him, even as he saw Loki lying on the bed.

"Wake up," Thor said desperately, stumbling over the few feet and grabbing his little brother by the shoulders, shaking him roughly. "Loki, please wake up!"

"What if I don't want to?" Loki mumbled, green eyes fluttering open. "I was having an intruiging dream. Everything was red and black and I saw the a ship full of Dark Elves floating out in the middle of space between Helheim and Musphelheim. And there was this Elf that—oh," he realized, as his gaze finally cleared.

"We're in the Healing Rooms, aren't we?" Loki said, lifting his head a few inches off the pillow to glance around, seeing that for the moment they were alone, before letting his head fall back to the pillow again. "I wonder who piloted us out of there. Probably Fandral, is my educated guess, as after me he's probably the next best out of the six of us.

"You know what, Brother? I agree with you. That adventure lacked too many dragons. Next time—oh," Loki interrupted himself again, eyes widening as he saw the door swing open.

He gripped Thor's hand harder.

"Can we just pretend I'm asleep?" he asked, closing his eyes and going immediately slack. "I'd rather not participate in this little talk."

"It's Odin isn't it," Thor realized, dread quickly being overpowered with anger as he turned to face his father.

"I see you're awake," Odin stated, striding into the room and standing before them.

Loki's eyes were opened the smallest of slits so that he could see through his eyelashes while still appearing to have his eyes fully closed, and his breathing was perfectly slow and even, his hand limp in Thor's.

Thor bristled. "No thanks to you!" Thor growled. "Now I've got something in side me that feels like a huge serpent coiled around my chest and sinking its fangs into my heart and injecting venom into my veins that makes me feel like I could and should uproot mountains and throw them into your face for sending us on such a pointless venture, with a foe that we could not fight!"

Odin regarded him apathetically.

"Dragons are fine," Thor continued furiously, having let go of Loki's hand and begun to gesture wildly as he talked. "Monsters are fine. Those are things that I can fight and defeat and protect Loki from. A parasitic gem that's actually a liquid and feeds off host bodies? What were you thinking sending us on a venture we that we have no means with which to triumph in?!"

Loki was sitting up now in bed, legs tangled in the sheets, expression apprehensive, maybe even nervous. "Brother—" he started.

"I do not understand why you care so much for that," Odin snorted, gesturing at the now conscious Loki. "That monster."

Thor stared at him, aghast. "Loki is my BROTHER!"

"No he's not," Odin shot back. "He is a Frost Giant! Laufey's son! A runt—a bastard child—that I took from Jotunheim after the war!"


"He's coming," Loki said, starting to look very uncomfortable. "Hey, could you guys stop arguing! I said that' he's coming. He's coming."

There was rolling, thunderous, reverberating laughter in Loki's head, and the words, "I'm coming for you, child. You have two possessions of mine that I desire back."

And not only that—Loki could feel a tugging on his mind from another direction, a dark vessel approaching Asgard.

But Odin and Thor were locked in a yelling match and did not hear him.

Reaching out, Odin tried to either shove Thor and shove past him to perhaps throttle Loki, and upon contact there was a roaring sound and burst of red, Odin being thrown across the room and into the wall by the aether, while Thor suddenly found himself lying on his back on the ground.

Suddenly there was a shrill, "Aieee!" and yet another burst of red power filling the room blindingly, like the flash from a gigantic, titan-sized camera.

Jumping to his feet, Thor saw that Loki was no longer in the bed, but a few feet behind, struggling uselessly against a huge indigo arm that had him around the throat.

The being, with a rectangular chin and deep lines in his features as if chiseled there, grinned with mirth and mercilessness at Thor and the Allfather, as Odin extracted himself from the shattered remnants of an herb cabinet.

The being's bright blue eyes were—well, bright. So bright that they didn't look like any sort of natural color for eyes to be, and more like they were glowing, not unakin to the cerulean glow of the tesseract.

"YOU!" Thor accused the creature.

"You know of me?" the titan inquired curiously, raising a brow.

"No," Thor admitted, pulling a sword from his belt. "But you are threatening my brother, and therefore, YOU SHALL DIE, FIEND!"

And with that Thor charged forward, only to hit some sort of forcefield and jerk back.

"Make one move against me and this Frost Giant runt dies," the titan growled.

"Thanos," Odin said, from where he stood there with Gungir in his right hand.

"Indeed," Thanos smiled. "I must admit I am pleased you remember me."

By this time Loki's fear had mostly seeped away—there's only so much fear one can hold, and a large purple titan appearing out of nowhere and grabbing you in a chokehold is pretty damn terrifying. So terrifying, in fact, that all the fear was scared right out of Loki, and now he was just rather amused.

Especially when his mouthing of Thanos' words and mockingly ridiculous facial expressions almost made Thor laugh, even though Thor was so agitated that the aether roiling within him was actually visible beneath his skin, distorting the god's tan flesh and making it appear as if he was covered in a huge dark bruise that moved and had a life of its own.

His eyes were also more blue than usual—not their normal sky-blue and not the luminous blue of Thanos' eyes, but a darker blue, hinting of red in their depths.

"First, I need you to hand over the tesseract," Thanos commanded, smiling sickly. "Be a good boy now."

"I don't have it," Thor growled.

"Yes you do," Thanos said, eyes flashing. "It's in your traveling pouch. You have ten seconds to hand it over, or this runt dies."

A blade was pressed against Loki's neck, and the dark-haired boy made a slashing motion at his neck, rolling his eyes back and sticking out his tongue.

"Don't give the tesseract to him," Odin ordered, gripping his spear and staring the titan in the eyes. Odin lost, as he only had one eye to Thanos' two, and thus the titan could out-stare him by one-hundred percent.

So of course, Thor immediately opened his travel pouch and began rifling through it for the tesseract, having a bit of difficulty as the bag was magicked and probably contained half the royal armory as well as a significant fraction of the castle's pillows.

Tilting his head up and trying to crane his neck to see Thanos' face, Loki asked, "How do you know that slitting my throat will kill me? I mean, because it takes so much to kill a god, and even before I bleed out and the aether goes crazy, if you don't cut my vocal chords—"

"Then I will cut off your head," Thanos said clamly.

"How do you know cutting of my head will kill me?" Loki inquired immediately. "I've never been beheaded, but it doesn't sound that bad. If I just stick my head back on—"

"Shut up," Thanos snarled, finally removing his gaze from Thor to glare down at the annoying god he was holding with a knife to its throat.

"Well if you're going to cut off my head and sever my vocal chords anyway, I hardly think I have any reason to stop talking if, like you seem to believe, beheading me would result in my death and I would no longer be able to talk," Loki said, smiling impishly up at the irritated titan. "Your face looks very strange upside-down, by the way. I'm inclined to believe you have a very rectangular forehead. Though if you had a beard it would be even weirder because then it could look like that was your hair, although you don't really have any hair it seems—"

"SHUT UP!" Thanos snarled, just as the tesseract was lobbed at his head with all the angry power of a blond thunder god and his aether-strengthened limbs, black and red diamonds seeming to trail the blue cube, which traveled with such swiftness that even after filming the glowing projectile's trajectory with a slow-speed camera, a mortal would be hard-pressed to see it fly past.

And it was at such a godly speed that the volatile cube crashed into Thanos' face.

"AAARGH!" Thanos roared, at the same time Heimdall sounded the alarm horn and shots from the guns were heard, along with walls crumbling.

In addition, Loki cried, "Take that!" and stomped the abruptly sharp, metal, and pointy heel of his boot into the top of Thanos' boot, making the titan stagger backwards with a bleeding foot and his violet skin singed and smoking from the burst of power the tesseract had unleashed, nearly frying him.

"Are we expecting visitors?" Thor asked, as a wall of the Healing Room was blown apart and a large black ship plowed through, crashing into the floor and raising the fine tiling.

"Malekith the Accursed," Loki nodded. "How delightful. We should have a tea party!"

"Nay, I think this is a better idea," Thor said, taking one of Loki's hands in his own and raising their palms together facing the ship, using their combined power of the aether to blow it up even as Dark Elves poured out of it.

"Accomplices of yours?" The Allfather asked Thanos, suddenly deciding to say something instead of just stand there watching bad stuff happen around him.

"Not mine," Thanos shrugged, picking the tesseract off the ground and dusting it off. "You're allowed to kill as many as you want. Be my guest."

As he said this, a Dark Elf emerged from the smoke that actually looked different the rest (as in the fact that he wasn't wearing a mask and you could actually see his ashy features and dark blue eyes). He bellowed, "You, godlings! You have something of mine, and I demand its return!"

"You want the aether?" Thor asked, stepping forward and spreading out his arms. "Then take it."

Surprised at how easy that was, Malekith paused, narrowing his eyes.

"If you can," Loki added, stepping up next to his brother and smiling in a way that was disconcerting and not at all reassuring.

Malekith's thoughts were probably something akin to, "What the hell," as he raised his arms, taking on the challenge, a wind sweeping up from out of nowhere as the two gods were raised into the air.

Meanwhile, while Thanos waited for Malekith to exorcise the aether from the two gods so he could claim it as his own, he began dueling with Odin, using the tesseract's power of manipulating space to allow him to dodge Gungir—the spear that never missed its target.

Except that as it turned out it did miss its target, and quite often, too.

Everything was crazy; everywhere was chaos.

Walls of the castle were being blown up, both because of the Dark Elf ships and the energy blasts from the titan and the Allfather, as well as Malekith raising Thor and Loki into the air with his creepy voodoo powers, the black and red of the aether streaming from their mouths and ears and nostrils, whereupon the were dropped unceremoniously to the ground as the aether squirmed in a large ball like thousands of eels, before entering Malekith.

"Loki, are you okay?" Thor asked, rushing over to his little brother.

The younger god snorted. "Asgard is collapsing around us, and you ask if I'm okay?"

That was when Thanos realized he'd grown too distracted tossing Odin around and had missed his chance to seize the aether.

He frowned at the significantly shorter Elf. "The aether is mine," Thanos said, using that trick of his to make his voice resonate everywhere.

"No, it is rightfully mine," Malekith snarled, raising his hands, the aether swirling around them.

"OVER MY DEAD BODY!" Odin shouted, apparently trying for some idiotic bravery. "ASGARD WILL FIGHT TO THE LAST MAN TO STOP YOU!"

Only before he could do anything, a blade of ice whipped past Thanos' and Malekith's faces, so close it trimmed Malekith's eyelashes and would have severed Thanos' had he had any, before it pierced Odin in the heart.

Odin's mouth opened into an 'O' of surprise, and both supervillains turned to look at the small, blue Jotun standing behind them and smiling, holding another ice dagger in each of his cobalt hands. His red eyes glinted.

"Oops, I guess I missed," he said innocently, aiming a dagger each at the villains, though when they stepped out of the way the daggers each impaled themselves into Odin's body, and the Allfather fell to his knees, blood pooling at the corners of his lips.

"You... monster..." he gargled wetly.

The Jotun smiled at him.

"Thor doesn't think so. And well, since you're not my actual father, I no longer feel as if I'd be copying all the legends of the Greek gods by killing you," Loki said. "Now go on and die already."

"I saved your life," Odin tried to shout. "If it hadn't been for me, you would have died abandoned on that frozen rock!"

"You gave me a brother," Loki acknowledged, nodding, aware of the fact that Thanos and Malekith were watching amusement. He copied their villainous smiles. "And then you tried to take him away from me and turn as against each other. I was nothing but a tool for you, wasn't I?"

Odin, bleeding from three different places in vital areas of his midriff, looked away, which Loki took as a Yes.

Loki turned his gaze to Thanos and Malekith, raising his dark eyebrows. "What are you staring at me for? Are you really going to forgo a chance to murder the Allfather?"

Snapped out of their shock, the two villains both turned to the dying Allfather and finished him off with surges of energy that caused Odin's atoms to explode.

"Don't look!" Thor cried, putting a hand over Loki's red eyes so that he didn't see the gore and turning his own face away.

They were splattered with something
"Eew," Loki said after a moment, as Thor cautiously let go of his brother and gazed around. "Am I covered in Allfather blood now?"

"Not as much as them," Thor said, gesturing with his head at Malekith and Thanos, who were both now covered in blood, but didn't seem to care as they bickered.

There was nothing left of Odin—not even his bones. Just Gungnir lying there among the castle debris.

The sky outside had a few scattered clouds, just visible through the smoke the wafted up from the golden city as the Aesir desperately tried to take down the Dark Elf ships.

A soft breeze came in through the missing walls, and since it came from the ocean it smelled only of salt and fish, rather than smoke and blood.

Although there was enough stench of smoke and blood in what had once been the Healing Rooms that it didn't really do anything to mollify the stink of war.

"Give me the aether," Thanos was saying.

"No—it is rightfully mine," Malekith answered, chalky lips sneering. "I plan to restore the Universe to Darkness and destroy all the Nine Realms."

"Well," Thanos said, smiling blandly. "I see our plans coincide. I too seek the obliteration of all life, in order to please my Lady Death."

Malekith seized the titan up—blue eyes to blue eyes, both of strange but different shades.

Perhaps he figured that Thanos would be a smart ally to have, as Malekith offered a hand for the titan to shake.

"If that is so," he said, also using that trick to make his voice resonate around the chamber, even though it could hardly be called a chamber anymore for all the sky that was visible through where three of the walls used to be. "Then we should be allies."

Thanos took Malekith's hand, shaking it as he said, "Indeed, I seek to please Lady Death by sending her souls. Why don't I start with you?"

And with that Thanos grabbed Gungnir and stabbed it through Malekith's heart, then used it to disembowl the Dark Elf as Thor once again covered Loki's eyes (which were now green).

"Did Thanos just kill Malekith?" Loki asked, as Thor made a gagging sound. "It sounded pretty messy."

Thor's hand slipped from Loki's face and the blond fell to his knees, beginning to throw up.

"You know, maybe next time you should let me cover your eyes," Loki suggested, as he held the hair out of Thor's face, and let his eyes scan the room curiously, landing on the remains of Malekith.

"Oh ick," he said immediately, looking away.

His gaze then landed on Thanos, who was now holding the tesseract in one hand while he tried to catch the aether in some sort of magical jar with the other, the way a kid would try to catch fireflies.

"How do you suppose we get rid of him?" Loki asked quietly, not worried about Thanos hearing as the titan seemed pretty distracted, chasing and cursing after the black and red floating blob as he was, though he was having no luck, seeing as that the aether was like a murmuration of starlings and simply flowed around things.

"Um," Thor said, wiping his mouth as he glanced around. Spotting a masked Dar Elf corpse he got up and walked over to it, beginning to search it for a weapon.

Loki came over to help him. "What about this?" Loki suggested, finding something grenade-shaped on the elf's belt and holding it up.

"It's worth a try," Thor agreed, taking the device and pressing a button on it, causing it to blink and beep rapidly.

"Hey Thanos!" Thor called, winding up his arm. "Here's a present for you!"

With that, Thor threw the gadget at the titan, who caught it on reflex, staring at it in confusion, before looking back up at Thor and baring his teeth.

"You really think—" Thanos started, only for his blue eyes to widen in alarm as the gadget exploded outwards and then promptly imploded into a miniature black hole, its gravity taking Thanos' matter with it, appearing to take him apart piece by piece as he struggled vainly, dropping the tesseract and the magic jar as he was sucked into nothingness.

"Whoa," Loki said after a moment.

Thor grabbed Loki's arm and dragged him over to the fallen objects, eying the buzzing aether warily as he grabbed the jar and, as the Gem of Power shot at Loki, Thor caught it in the magical container, quickly shutting the lid.

"Did you just use me as bait?" Loki accused, as he bent down and picked up the tesseract, reaching into his traveling pouch to pull out a fluffy blanket with which to wrap it up in, before depositing it in the fathomless depths of said pouch.

"No—I just protected you!" Thor protested. His eyes flicked around at the carnage, his lips twisting down, though when he glanced outside he saw that Asgard had done a fine job getting rid of the Dark Elf ships; the dark vehicles were all now blown up or crashed.

Loki took the locked-up aether from Thor's hands and deposited it in his pouch as well.

"We can find a safe place for them later," Loki told him. He simpered then, saying, "Assuming I ever find them amongst the city of books and blankets and frying pans I've collected."

Thor tactfully chose to ignore that last comment. "Where do you suppose Sif and the Warriors Three are?" he inquired worriedly.

"You mean if we're not dead?"

Loki and Thor turned around to fine Fandral smiling at them as he entered, followed by the others. The first expression to cross their faces was relief that their princes were still alive; the second was horror at the amount of blood and guts everywhere, and the state of the chamber, which looked like it could collapse at any moment, being supported only by one wall and a couple spindly pillars.

With widened dark eyes, Sif breathed, "What happened here?"

"Thor became King, is what," Loki answered.

Thor whirled on him, mouth dropping open. "What?!"

"Odin is dead; that means you're king," Loki said, giving his brother a look like, Duh, that should be obvious.

"My liege," Volstagg said, dropping to one knee and crossing a fist over his chest, bowing his head, the others following suit.

"Oh please," Thor said uncomfortably. "Get up. You don't need to bow before me."

"At least not right now," Loki added, ignoring Thor's glare.

"So what are our King's plans?" Fandral asked pointedly, making a gesture to encompass all the damage that Asgard had sustained.

"We give the dead warriors a proper funeral and rebuild the city," Thor said immediately. He puffed out his chest, shoulders thrusting back as he prepared to take on the weight of the world, before the air left him with a sigh and he slumped slightly. "And then, when that's all done, we're going get some sleep." And then we're going to feast."

"And throw a party to celebrate our victory and those of us who are still alive," Loki said hopefully, widening large green eyes. "Please? I think we deserve a party."

Thor chuckled, taking Loki under one arm and ruffling his dark hair. "Yes: and throw a party." he paused thoughtfully, before adding, "Maybe we can find some dragons to fight as well."

"Everything is better with dragons," Loki nodded sagely.

Yes, I just did that ;P BECAUSE I WANTED TO! Because I figured, well, if I'm going to kill Odin, I might as well kill the other characters I know my sister hates and would love to see die. I shall consider this story my vengeance upon them for being evil }:)

Ehehe, Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and Happy New Year everyone! :D