Run for the Light
Fandom: Thor (movie-verse)/Supernatural crossover
Length: 23,000 words
Author Notes: This was written for norsekink . fallen_iceangel posted this prompt: Thor and Loki (and the rest of the family/Asgardian's of your choice) are mortal and Hunters. "Saving people, Hunting things. The Family Business."
This has to be by far the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever written. It’s like, the AU of AUs. I feel like I need a flow chart to keep track of the canon. It’s Movie-verse Thor, which is based off of a comic book, which is based off an actual mythology (whose canon is still debatable), and it’s set in an alternative Supernatural TV Series universe. And I wrote it in a non-linear style. Got that straight? Right. Let's go.
For anyone who was wondering, the title was inspired by the song “Geeving” by Abandon All Ships. There’s a lyric that says “blinded by the light,” but to me it always sounds like “run for the light”. The song was on when I first started the fic, and it stayed with me while I wrote the whole thing. According to iTunes, I’ve listened to the song 103 times since I started writing it.
() () ()
There is only one hotel on the outskirts of Amity, Oregon. And nobody but the desperate go there.
Loki eyes his room key—an actual key, not one of those modern day key cards—with trepidation. When the motel door sticks and Thor has to kick it open, Loki bites down on his complaints. It is Thor’s turn to choose a motel.
The beds are lumpy masses beneath paper thin blankets. Loki runs his hand over a pillow and finds a hair. Not his.
“Thor,” Loki says. So much meaning in one tiny word. And only a brother can understand all the nuances and implications in the way he says it.
Thor grins, unapologetic. He has both duffel bags over one brawny shoulder and sets them on the (dusty) carpet. “Loki,” he replies. He probably knows exactly what is bothering Loki, but he enjoys being willfully ignorant sometimes. “Something wrong?”
“We can’t sleep here.” Loki holds up one dirty pillow.
“Correction—you can’t sleep here,” Thor says, right before the dirty pillow is thrown into his face. He’s still grinning when it hits the floor. “I’ll sleep just fine.”
Loki looks at him mutinously. He has, on occasion, slept in the car rather than in seedy motels. Thor always tells him it’s safer inside—they can ward the doors and windows with salt and brace a chair against the door to deter human threats. “Just pretend you’re somewhere else,” Thor tells him. “You’ll be okay.”
Loki dusts off the small chair and desk before settling into it. His journal falls open on his knees and he flips through the worn pages. “Not now,” Thor says, seeing what Loki is doing. “Jesus. We just arrived. Do we have to go into research mode just now?”
“Yeah, but I also haven’t eaten anything other than that bag of Cheetos this morning.” Thor patted his stomach in a fond sort of way. “Mjolnir needs feeding.”
Loki resists the urge to sigh. “Normal people do not name their stomachs—you do know that, right?”
Thor leans over Loki’s chair, blocking out his light. “Come on. I saw a burger joint a few blocks away.”
“Then go. I can stay here.”
A hand closes around the back of Loki’s collar, yanking him upright. Thor all but drags Loki out of the chair. “You need food, too. Come on—you can always do your book thing after dinner.”
Loki protests, but it’s no use. Thor remembers to grab Loki’s wallet on the way out. His fist remains clamped on Loki’s collar and he leads his younger brother out of the motel room as if Loki were a particularly stubborn dog on a leash.
The burger place isn’t all that bad. Loki’s seen worse, but that’s what comes of only ever eating in cheap restaurants. There’s no kitchen for Thor and Loki, no home to go back to. He’s probably traveled more than ninety percent of his generation. His family have always been hunters, or that’s what Dad always said, back when they still hunted with Dad. Dad was always an imposing figure—well, as imposing as a man can be with an eyepatch. The story of how he lost his eye changes depending on how many beers he’s thrown back.
Loki drags his mind to the present. He doesn’t like thinking about Dad or Mom.
Thor is studying the laminated menu with a pleased expression, and it takes Loki a moment to figure out why. Their waitress glides over to their booth in tight jeans and a shirt that is stretched over the curve of her chest. She is a brunette and Loki watches as Thor’s eyes travel over her. She notices his interest and looks down, but Loki can see the smile lurking around the corners of her full lips. Her name tag reads “Sif”.
“What can I get for you today?” she asks.
Thor grins openly at her, suggestive. It’s all he really has to do. Loki is under no delusions as to who the attractive brother is. Thor is built like a pro football player and has sun-bronzed skin and blond hair. All he has to do was smile and the women will come running.
Loki watches as Thor makes easy conversation with Sif-the-Waitress, asking about local tourist spots and news. Thor could fit into the normal world. If that was what he wanted, he could leave hunting behind, become a normal person, have a nine-to-five job, a wife, and a picket fence.
Loki… Loki can never leave this life. Even if Thor does leave, Loki will still continue on. It’s who he is. It’s who he has to be. Loki has to fight monsters.
Because it’s the only way he can justify being one.
() () ()
Loki was fifteen when he found out he wasn’t human.
He was on a hunt with Thor and Dad and Mom—one of Loki’s first, actually. He was finally starting to be regarded as a hunter instead of a child.
“You’ve got to be kidding me,” Thor said. He tested his machete’s sharpness with his thumb. “There are sirens in Minnesota?”
They stood beside the family car, unpacking their gear. Frost hung in the air and ice covered everything around them. Mom handed another machete to Dad, along with a flashlight and walkie-talkie. Dad gave Thor a look at that was one parts fond and two parts exasperation. “They’re called rusalka. Russian sirens.”
“So we’re dealing with monsters who believe in communism?” Thor threw a grin at Loki. “Sounds like fun.”
“Not fun,” Mom said reprovingly. She pulled on gloves. Her long hair was pulled back into a tight ponytail and she looked hard and ready, like every hunter Loki had ever known. “Mind on task, Thor.”
“Yeah, sure.” Thor tossed a machete to Loki, who just barely managed to catch it.
Dad said, “They’re asleep right now, since the lake is frozen over. We’re going to set some charges around the lake and—”
“Dude,” Thor interrupted, “we’re blowing the whole thing up?”
“That cannot be good for the local environment,” Loki said worriedly, glancing at the lake’s icy surface. “There’s got to be a better way.”
Dad glared at them both. “There is no better way. We’re talking about creatures that routinely drag boaters down and drown them simply for their own sick sense of fun. We can only get near right now because it is winter. Your mother and I are going to be taking the north and west sides of the lake. Thor, you go east and Loki, south.”
Thor and Loki exchanged raised eyebrows. “You’re trusting Thor with explosives?” Loki asked, which earned him an elbow in the ribs.
The boys set off in one direction around the lake and the adults another. Mom called after them to be careful.
Thor left Loki at the south end of the lake. “See you in a few,” Thor called over his shoulder, and his words misted in the frozen air.
Loki took a tentative step onto the lake. The last thing he wanted was to slip and fall on his ass. “Don’t blow off your own hand or anything.”
Thor snorted. “Yeah, sure.” He continued to walk around the lake’s edge as Loki crept further out, charges in hand. He looked downward. The ice seemed to be thick, gray and dusted with old snow. Loki brushed it with one gloved hand, so that the surface was bare. Part of him wanted to see a rusalka, to see exactly what they looked like so he could sketch one in his journal. He didn’t see anything at first. But as he moved more snow, he caught sight of something beneath the ice.
It looked like a long strand of gold. It glimmered in the glow of Loki’s flashlight. Eagerly, Loki scooped more snow out of the way. The long strand, like a ribbon caught waving in a strong wind, trailed all the way up to a head. Loki couldn’t see many features; it simply looked like the top of someone’s head—someone that was unfortunate enough to be frozen in the lake. Loki stared at it. He could just make out one gleaming eye. It was open, unmoving, and a very bright blue. Loki shivered and set one of his charges on the ice.
That was when the eye blinked. Loki’s fingers went still and he leaned forward.
He could have sworn that the rusalka’s head moved and it smiled. There was a crack and suddenly the world fell out from Loki.
He plunged into the water.
Loki never quite remembered things all that well after he fell through the ice. He remembered choking out a scream and seeing only bubbles. The water was so cold it hurt. There were hands, yanking at his clothes, pulling him down, and he scrabbled at the edge of the ice, fingers slipping on it, desperately trying to cling to it. Something was touching him, something that was slippery and even colder than the water, and Loki tried to kick out at it. But all his flailing succeeded in was breaking his grip on the ice. His mouth flew open and he gasped in a lungful of water, sure that this was it. He was being yanked downward. There’d be no body to find. He’d be gone, just like those boaters.
Then there was something hot on his wrist and another hand had attached itself to his arm—this one trying to drag him upward instead of down. There was a horrible moment of suspension; Loki supposed this was what a tug of war rope must have felt like. Then the hands on his ankles and legs released him and he was being heaved to the surface.
Water streamed out of Loki’s hair and eyes. He blinked hard, trying to clear his vision, and that was when he saw Thor. His older brother was heaving him up and out of the water. The shards of ice bit into his chest and stomach, although he didn’t discover that he was bleeding until later. His skin was simply to numb to register pain. His vision faded for a moment, and when the world swam back into view, he was pressed up against something warm and dry, and he saw blond hair. “Loki,” Thor was saying. “Jesus fucking Christ. Loki—you all right?”
Loki tried to nod his head, but he was shaking so hard he wasn’t sure if he got the point across.
Dad came thundering out of the woods, walkie-talkie in hand. Thor must have called him. “What happened?” he demanded, when he saw Loki on the ground and Thor leaning over him.
“The ice cracked and he fell in.”
Loki’s numb lips didn’t work too well, but he managed to say, “D-d-dragged down.”
Thor and Dad stared at him for a moment, uncomprehending. Then Dad’s eye glittered and he reached for his machete. “Get him to the car,” he said to Thor.
Thor helped Loki sit up and somehow Loki ended up with Thor's arm looped around his stomach and Loki’s arm around Thor’s shoulder. It was the only way he’d stay upright. Loki wasn’t sure how the two of them managed to wobble to the car; they probably looked like a particularly sad pair in a three legged race. But Thor managed to heave Loki into the backseat before jamming the key into the ignition and turning the heater on full blast. Then he was scrambling into the seat next to Loki, pulling at his wet clothes. “Sorry, man,” Thor muttered as he unzipped Loki’s jacket. “But you can’t stay in these.”
Only when Loki was down to his boxers did Thor reach for an old, woolen blanket and drape it around the two of them. He pulled Loki close, wrapped warm arms around Loki’s freezing shoulders. “Saw this on tv once,” Thor said, attempting a cheerful tone. “Only it was a hot chick and a guy. And it was a crappy soap opera.” They sat that way—Loki trembling as feeling returned to his body in painful spasms and gasps, Thor steady and warm—until both Mom and Dad arrived back at the car. Mom took one look at the two of them and shucked off her own jacket, handing it to Thor.
“We have to get him to a hospital,” Thor said.
Dad glanced over his shoulder at his two boys and then shook his head. “No, Thor. We can’t.”
Loki felt it when Thor went rigid. “Dad,” Thor said and his voice went hard. Uncompromising. “You can’t be serious.”
A long pause. Something passed over Dad’s face—like a cloud over the sun, and then he turned away. “Hypothermia won’t kill him, Thor.”
Thor wasn’t listening; he didn’t listen when he knew the answer was something he didn’t want to hear. “Dad, I know you hate hospitals, but—“
“He won’t freeze!” Dad’s temper, already drawn tight by the night of hunting, finally snapped. “He can’t freeze, all right?”
There was a moment of confused silence before Loki’s throat worked and he managed to croak out one word. One word that unraveled everything he’d thought he knew about the world and himself.
() () ()
They return to the motel room with full stomachs and Waitress Sif’s phone number. Thor talks about maybe giving her a call once the job is done. Loki stays silent; he will not interfere if his brother wants to have some fun. By now, night has completely fallen and Loki finds himself glancing into every shadow. Only after they are inside and Thor has salted the doors and windows does Loki relax. He picks his journal up off the floor and sits on his bed, kicking off his shoes.
Thor already has the tv remote in hand and is flipping through muted channels.
“So what are we hunting?” Thor asks.
Loki doesn’t look up from his journal. “Don’t know yet. Still putting some facts together.” He tugs a newspaper clipping out of the book and glances over it again. It reads, ‘Multi-millionaire killed in factory accident’. Some man called Laufey—who’d made his living by clear-cutting forests—had accidentally fallen onto a saw in one of his own lumber factories. A bloody, ironic death. Loki glances over yet another newspaper article. A female scientist studying wormholes had gone missing nearby. According to eyewitness reports, there had been some sort of tornado… which made no sense, because the odds of a tornado in the northwest were about as good as Thor suddenly developing a passion for research.
“The only thing I can see,” Loki says slowly, “is that all the deaths were… ironic. Every one so far seems to be related to his or her line of work.”
Thor, who has found a football game by now, seems to be only half-listening. “Really.”
Loki begins flipping through his journal. It contains all of his notes, all of the research he’s ever managed to compile, along with some of the other detritus that accompanies his life: receipts, snapshots, sketches, and lists. It is jumbled, disorganized, and sometimes Loki wishes he used some sort of computer program to do all this instead. But a journal is easier to carry, and the last laptop he owned fell victim to a teething hellhound.
Loki lets his eyes slide over each page, scanning for key words. One passage catches his attention.
Loki stands, and he brings his journal to Thor. He holds it out, index finger tapping at one word. Thor blinks and turns his attention away from the television screen. He glances at the page and then up at Loki’s face. “What’s a trickster?”
() () ()
When Loki was thirteen, he read about changelings. They were babies taken from their cradles and replaced with monsters. Sure, the monsters looked human and acted human, but they weren’t. The story about changelings had unsettled him because there were too many unanswered questions: what had happened to the original babies? Did the monsters raise them as monsters? And what about the inhuman children? They were slipped into a human household like a cuckoo’s egg was slipped into another bird’s nest. Did they always have to be evil, or could their upbringing influence how they turned out? Unsatisfied, Loki had put the book away.
When Loki was fifteen, and Dad and Mom brought them home after the rusalka hunt, the truth came to light.
Loki might never have found out had Thor not been so insistent that they take Loki to a hospital. Thor had a tendency to dig in his heels during the best of situations; threaten one of his family or friends, and he’d be likely to pick up whatever was closest at hand and use it as a weapon. Loki had actually seen this happen once, when a bully went after one of Thor’s friends at school. They’d been in wood shop, so Thor had grabbed a hammer and held the bully at bay with it. Later, Loki had chuckled over the encounter. “Really, Thor? A hammer?”
So Thor simply couldn’t back down, even when they arrived at home. Loki was swiftly dressed in dry clothes, but he’d gone eerily still during the ride home, as if his body had grown too tired to shiver. Thor, whose fear usually translated to anger, threatened to bundle up Loki and drive him to the ER without Dad’s permission.
That was when all hell broke loose.
Dad said that Loki couldn’t see a doctor. Ever. Because the doctor would quickly realize that the boy sitting on his examination table wasn’t exactly human.
Loki’s knees gave out. He found himself sitting on the floor, staring at a patch of carpet.
Dad, in a low and tired voice, elaborated. Fifteen years ago, he and mom had been after a nest of monsters. Jötuns, Dad called them. They took humans, played with them, ate them. When Mom and Dad had raided the nest, they’d found something they hadn’t expected. One of the monsters must have enjoyed keeping a human woman around for an extended period of time, because it had sired a child with her. A half-breed baby.
“You took me,” Loki said quietly. It felt weird to be having this conversation in their living room; it was simply too mundane a place to talk about the fact Loki wasn’t human. Loki wasn’t human. Loki wasn’t human. Loki blinked hard and his fingers dug into the carpet, as if to anchor himself. His world was swiftly tilting to one side, moving so fast he couldn’t find his feet.
Thor stood halfway between Loki and Dad, eyes darting between them both. He looked like he wanted to say something.
“Yes,” Dad answered. “I took you.”
Loki inhaled and held the breath for a moment. It steadied him. “Why?”
“What?” Dad said, startled.
“Why,” Loki repeated. “Why did you take me? You must have had a reason.”
Dad had no answers for him, but Loki was perfectly able to come up with his own. To watch a monster grow up. To have something to study. To have leverage, should he ever run into those Jötuns again.
Loki was just another weapon in Dad’s arsenal. He laughed softly to himself, a bitter little sound.
Thor finally rounded on his father. “Why didn’t you tell me?” he demanded.
“You were a toddler,” Dad snarled back. “What was I supposed to tell you?”
The two of them began to argue, and Mom disappeared in the direction of the bathroom. It was easy for Loki to slip out of the living room and into the front yard.
It had begun to snow again. Loki held out a hand and watched snowflakes fall on his pale skin; he was dressed in a thin t-shirt and jeans. No shoes. But it didn’t matter, right? Dad had already admitted Loki wouldn’t ever freeze to death. Loki began walking. When he was too tired to continue, he simply sat down at the base of a large oak and closed his eyes. When he reopened them, it was to Thor shaking him and shouting about what an idiot Loki was. He dragged Loki back home. Dad was gone, something Loki was grateful for. Thor tried to make tea but forgot to add the bag and Loki ended up sipping hot water instead.
“This doesn’t change anything,” Thor said.
Of course it did, Loki thought, but with a certain amount of affection. That was Thor for you. Never let anything like facts or logic slow him down.
When Loki didn’t reply, Thor added, “You’re still family.” A thoughtful pause. “And I can still kick your ass.”
() () ()
Thor snores. It’s something Loki’s grown used to over the years. He sits up on his bed, journal still cradled in his lap. He takes the first watch, letting his older brother sleep while he keeps an eye out for trouble. Normally, they wouldn’t bother but this motel and the numerous deaths have Loki on edge. He wants to get this job done and get out quickly, although it is impossible to put a finger on the why.
At around three in the morning, Thor’s cell phone begins blaring ‘Ride of the Valkyries’. Thor twitches and it’s obvious he wants to slam the phone repeatedly into the nightstand until it shuts up. But then he groans and sits up, shutting off the alarm. “My watch,” he says groggily. Loki bites back a fond smile.
“You don’t have to,” Loki replies. “I’m fine with staying up all night.”
Thor glowers at him from underneath a fringe of tousled blond hair. “You. Sleep. Now.” Thor’s verbal abilities don’t kick in for a good five minutes until after he’s woken up, but he manages to get the point across.
Loki knows better than to argue with a sleep-muddled Thor. Instead, he sets his journal beside him and curls up on his side. His blanket is too thin to keep him properly warm, but he manages to fall into a doze.
When his own alarm goes off at seven in the morning, Loki sits up. He is surprisingly warm. Thor is in the shower; he can hear the sound of splashing water and hum of the fan.
Loki glances over and sees that the blankets from Thor’s bed are missing. Loki looks down, only to find that sometime during the night, they’d been draped over him.
() () ()
When Loki was sixteen, he visited his first bar on his own. Well, sort of. Thor insisted on coming along.
They weren’t carded. Loki had a feeling it was because the place needed the business so badly. Half the lights in the sign outside were burned out, so it said “Da y igs” instead of “Darcy’s Digs”. When Loki stepped inside, he felt like he’d entered the musty den of a pack of animals who had wisely deserted the location years ago. It had an underground feel… or maybe that was because of the fine layer of dirt on the floor. “Cheery,” Thor observed. Then his eyes brightened as he saw the bar and the person behind it: a slender young woman with thick-rimmed glasses and a tumble of dark hair.
To Loki’s surprise, Thor’s attention wasn’t on the hot bartender. He was fixated on something else. “What is that?” Thor asked, pointing at something behind her head. It looked like a large horn.
“Drinking horn,” the bartender said briskly. “Bit of a contest for our regulars here. If you can finish the whole thing in one go, it’s on the house.”
A smile slowly spread across Thor’s face.
Loki said quickly, “We’re not here to drink—” (“Speak for yourself,” Thor muttered) “—we’re looking for someone.”
The woman shrugged and leaned over the bar. “Who?”
“Someone called Eric?” It came out as a question, rather than a statement.
The woman pursed her lips, as if considering whether to answer or not. Finally, she jerked her thumb at one corner of the bar. “He’s over there. Old guy, drinking a whiskey. Just follow the acrid smell of burnout.”
Loki saw him—a shadow lurking at a corner table, leaning over an empty glass. “Thanks,” Loki said, and turned in the man’s direction. Thor looked torn for a moment, eyes flicking back and forth from the man to the bar. He closed his eyes and angled himself away from the bartender with the air of someone conveying a great sacrifice. “You don’t have to come,” Loki reminded him.
Thor sighed. They’d been over this several times.
When they approached his table, the man looked up. He was well over fifty, with thinning hair and a lined face. He had probably been muscular in his younger days, but time and a sedentary lifestyle had rounded out his stomach and arms. “Are you Eric?” Loki asked.
The man met his eyes for the briefest of seconds; his eyes were flat, dead. “Who are you?”
“I’m Loki,” he gestured at Thor, “and this is Thor.”
Finally, recognition sparked to life in the man’s face. He sat up, pushing his empty glass away. “You’re Odin’s boys.”
Thor spoke up. “You know our dad?”
Eric picked up his glass and put it to his lips, then seemed to realize it was empty. With a scowl, he snapped his fingers at the bartender. “Refill over here. Yeah, kid,” he added to Thor. “Everyone in the trade has at least heard of Odin. Only worked with him a few times, but I remember. Good man. Good hunter.” The two concepts were obviously inseparable in Eric’s mind.
The bartender slouched to their table and snatched the empty glass away, replacing it with a full one. She also set glasses of water in front of Thor and Loki. Before anyone had time to thank her, she slunk back behind the bar.
“What do you want?” Eric asked.
“Information.” Loki forced himself not to look at Thor. He could feel his brother’s gaze digging into him, but he ignored it. “What do you know about Jötuns?”
Eric’s drink slipped from his fingers. Luckily, it landed upright and didn’t shatter, but a good amount of whiskey slopped out of the glass. Eric didn’t seem to notice. “What?”
“I heard you’d hunted them a couple of times,” Loki said quickly. “Dad won’t tell us about them, but we want to know.”
Thor added, “We’re going to be hunters,” as if this were an explanation.
Eric mopped up some of the spilled whiskey with his sleeve. “You better not be thinking of hunting them, boys. You wouldn’t live to see the end of the week.”
“No, no,” Loki hastened to reassure him. “It’s all academic, I swear.”
Eric stared at them for a long minute, as if trying to judge whether or not they were telling the truth. Finally, he sighed. “Once,” he said.
“What?” Thor asked.
“Once,” Eric repeated. “I hunted them once. The second time, they hunted me.” He picked up his glass and tossed back what was left of his drink. “They’re mean bastards, you see. You have to kill the whole lot or else they’ll regenerate and come after you. All right, first things first. Jötuns live primarily in cold environments—you’ll find them in northern Canada, sometimes the US, Alaska. Supposedly, they’ve got a few colonies in Russia. Never been there myself, so I can’t confirm. The nest I went after was in Sweden.
“What you need to know is that Jötuns have three main abilities—they’re faster than hell, can heal one another, and can actually control ice if they want to. That healing thing is what nearly did me in the second time. A lone Jötun found some of the nestmates before they were entirely dead. They can transfer part of their own life force to heal their own kind, if they want to. Like cockroaches, they’ll come back. You can’t half-ass a Jötun hunt.” Eric leaned back in his chair and crossed his arms over his chest. “They can control water and ice to a small degree. Tele-aquatic, I guess you could say. Usually they just use it to create swords and shields out of ice. Quick and dirty weapons. They’re also faster than most humans—got quicker reactions than most. Hard to surprise them. Really long lifespan.”
“How’d you get away from them?” Thor asked.
Eric mournfully eyed his empty glass. “Got to an airport and booked a one-way flight to Chicago. Anything else you want to know?”
Loki and Thor exchanged a look. Loki was already turning this new information over in his mind, applying it to his own life. He had always been fast, but he’d attributed it to his thin frame and the fact he was smaller than Thor. As for being able to control water or ice, he was pretty sure that was out. This whole thing had begun just after he’d nearly drowned.
It was more information than they’d had. Loki saw the way Eric’s hand trembled as he set his glass down on the table; he was close to the edge. Pressing him for more info might just tip him over. Subtly, Loki gave his head a shake.
A chuckle rumbled in Thor’s chest and he said, “You ever tried the horn-drinking contest?”
() () ()
When Thor emerges from the bathroom, his hair damp and a towel draped over one shoulder, he sees what Loki has managed to salvage for breakfast. On their tiny table is a protein bar (broken in half) and four cups of instant coffee.
Thor stares at his half of the protein bar with distaste. “You’ve got to be kidding me.”
Loki doesn’t bother to hide his wicked smile. “Breakfast is courtesy of the motel gift shop. You know, you really do pick the classiest lodgings.”
“There has to be a diner in this town.”
“Already looked—that burger place doesn’t open until noon.”
Thor glares at his protein bar and then at the Styrofoam cup.
Loki very deliberately nibbles the end off of his protein bar, then raises his eyebrows in silent challenge.
Thor seizes his bar. He cannot let himself be outdone by his little brother, something Loki knows and counts on. “Breakfast of champions,” Thor says grimly, and then dunks the protein bar into his coffee. He rips off the end with his teeth and chews. And chews. And chews. When he finally manages to swallow, he says hoarsely, “Yum.”
Loki chokes back a laugh. He reaches down into his shopping bag and withdraws one more item. A box of doughnuts.
Thor stares at it. “You…”
“Are evil,” Loki says with a laugh. “Yes, yes, you’ve told me before.”
() () ()
When Thor was ten, he was slightly obsessed with comic books.
“I don’t see what the big deal is,” Loki said. He’d been dragged out of the library and into a comics store, and he was sure they wouldn’t be selling the book of Grimm’s Fairy Tales he’d been engrossed in. “We’re going to be hunting real monsters the rest of our lives. Why would we want to read about fictional ones?”
Thor, hidden behind some flashy red cover, only grunted incoherently in response. Loki shot a dirty look at the book. “We’re supposed to be doing homework,” he added. “That’s why Dad dropped us off at the library. Not so we can sneak out and go somewhere else.”
Thor finally put the book down. He looked torn between amusement and confusion. “What the hell, Loki? What kind of kid wants to do homework when they could read comics?”
“Someone who would like to be smart when they grow up.”
“You’re already smart. Freakishly so.”
“Not a freak.” Loki crossed his arms. “You’re just stupid.”
That made Thor put the comic down. A challenge always would. “Am not,” he said hotly. “And I’m still bigger than you, so you should shut up.”
All right, so Thor could probably sit on Loki’s head and shut him up that way, but Loki couldn’t help himself. “Maybe that’s why you like the comics,” he said thoughtfully. “Big dumb heroes running around—”
Thor lunged at Loki. They fell to the floor in a tumble and after a moment, Thor was indeed sitting atop Loki’s chest. He grinned triumphantly down at his little brother. “So what does that make you if you get beat by the big dumb hero?”
Loki wriggled and tried to escape. No use, though. Thor knew better than to give him any room. “Super villain?” Loki said, resigned.
() () ()
“So,” Thor says. “Silver, salt, or stake?”
It’s an old catchphrase, one they’ve tossed back and forth during dire situations. Translation: how do we kill what is trying to kill us?
Loki brushes the last of the powdered sugar from his fingers. “Honestly,” he says, “I have no idea. Tricksters are rare. More than rare. They only show up every thousand years or so.”
Thor is at work on his second cup of instant coffee, stirring in powdered creamer with a plastic fork. “So how tough can they be?”
“Ah.” Sometimes Loki forgets that Thor hasn’t researched as much as Loki has. “They’re like gods. They can manipulate the very fabric of reality to suit their wants, and they’re immortal.”
Instead of looking daunted, an eager smile breaks across Thor’s face. “A challenge, then.”
“Challenge,” Loki drawls, “or suicide. Same thing.”
At this, Thor finally frowns. He sips at his coffee and winces. He tears open another packet of creamer. “It’s killed people,” he says.
“Some tricksters go after people they think need to be taken down a peg—arrogant assholes, usually. They end up humbled.”
“Humbled to death,” Thor replies, and there’s a finality in his tone that Loki can’t argue with. This trickster business has piqued Thor’s two strongest interests: going after monsters and taking up a challenge that would make sane men piss themselves. “Stop looking at me like that.” Thor swirls his coffee with the plastic fork. “We’ll kick ass and find the next monster. Business as usual.”
Loki wishes he could be as optimistic.