Chapter 1: Race You!
"Brother! Slow down!" Loki whined as he ducked under a branch.
Thor stopped his stride and turned to face his brother. It was a cold winter day and Loki and Thor were out in the forest. To one side, the path fell away down to a lake now covered in ice. They were about ten by human time, too young to be out there alone. Rules had never stopped Thor before.
Thor looked at his brother worriedly. "What are you doing out here brother?"
Loki's look was pleading. "You are supposed to be in the palace, not out here."
"No fun being stuck in the palace." Thor smiled and spread his arms, turning in a circle. "It is the first freeze of the season!"
Loki bit his lip, unconvinced. He hated breaking the rules, it would just make Odin scowl at him even more. "We, we're going to get in trouble with father," he whined again, his old stutter still present.
Thor shook his head. He loved his little brother but Loki needed to relax. It was all right to break the rules on occasion. After all, what could possibly happen?
"Do you even know where you're going?" Loki asked.
Thor shrugged, "just walking."
Loki scuffed his foot, looking down.
Thor paused and looked around. "Race you brother," he challenged.
That made Loki look up. "Where?" He loved racing.
"Over there to the break in the path," Thor pointed down the path to where it did indeed break as it went around an oak, about three hundred meters away.
Loki nodded, wishing again he was more like Thor that was quick thinking. Thor was tall and strong, muscular, and a natural with a sword. He was all the things an Asgardian should be and all the things that Loki, with his small and lean frame, wasn't. Loki wasn't as strong as Thor and hated fighting with swords – he didn't mind fighting, he just didn't get the same thrill out of it that Thor did.
One thing Loki could do better than Thor was run. Despite being younger and smaller than Thor and the older children, he won almost every time.
Thor picked the starting line, a fallen branch, and glanced at Loki, "ready?"
When Loki ran it felt like he was flying and he could run for hours without getting tired. A few hundred meters was easy. He pulled ahead of Thor, sharp eyes spotting that the path was iced over ahead. His balance was much better than Thor whether it was on rooftops, tree branches, or ice. Especially ice, he was a natural on it. As soon as he stepped on the ice he stopped running, staying still, letting his momentum carry him at the cost of speed.
Thor didn't do that, he tried to take another step. Later, Loki would wonder if Thor had even seen the ice. Of course, Thor's feet slipped out from under him. He crashed, his poor footing and momentum causing him to tumble down the hill, out of Loki's sight.
"Thor!" Loki called, but didn't move until he cleared the ice. As soon as he reached a less slippery surface, Loki ran over to the edge and started down.
Thor had tumbled down the hill and slid out onto ice. He lay there for a moment, stunned, ears ringing. "I'm fine!" He called after a moment sitting up. Carefully, he pulled his feet under him and stood, arms extended as he tried to keep a shaky balance.
He heard an odd popping sound and a noise like cracking. Slowly, he looked down. He was in the middle of the ice covered lake. This was the first freeze of winter. The ice would not be thick. As if hearing Thor's thoughts, the ice popped again, groaning under his weight. He looked up to where Loki was just about to step on the ice. "Brother stop!"
Loki hesitated, seeing the problem. "Do-don't move Thor."
"Don't worry," Thor tried to laugh lightly but it came out hollow. He took a step experimentally and the ice shifted loudly, almost cracking. He gulped, heartbeat and breathing increasing, scared. As far as Loki was concerned, Thor never got scared. Thor was the perfect warrior and Loki had been told often enough by his father that he knew how sad of an Æsir he was in comparison. But now, Loki could see that Thor was scared.
"Brother?" Thor asked. I do not suppose you know a good charm?" He failed rather miserably at keeping his voice light.
Loki didn't know any charms other than how to send out a senseline – radar for mages essentially. Frigga was always saying that he should work on his magic more. Now Loki regretted his decision to force himself to work on swords instead. A charm would come in handy. He shook his head helplessly.
Thor chewed his lip, fear reflecting in his sapphire eyes. The ice groaned again.
"Try-try to walk to-towards me Thor," Loki waved Thor on, "slowly."
Thor shook his sharply and did not move. The ice would break if he moved.
Loki had no idea what to do. He had always followed Thor's lead, always tried to make himself into the warrior that Odin expected. Never did he cause trouble or break the rules. Taking command was just not something Loki did. It seemed like he had to now. His perfect older brother was too scared to move.
How do I do this? Well, I need to get Thor off the ice first… How to get Thor to move. He had an idea but it was not very orthodox. A breath to steady himself, and he took a step onto the ice.
"Get back!" Thor ordered, used to Loki doing what he said.
"Come make me!" Loki challenged, forcing his voice not to stutter.
Thor leaned back, what? That did not sound like the Loki he knew.
Loki warily slid forward an inch. The ice stayed quiet. At least there was one advantage to being a lightweight. "You say you will be Asgard's greatest warrior and yet you are scared of a little ice?"
Thor wasn't scared of ice. He was scared of an enemy he couldn't fight. A few weeks ago, a Star Guard had drowned. A sword wasn't very useful against water.
"You are scared," Loki taunted with a roll of his eyes. "What a baby. And Sif calls me craven."
"She does not," Thor argued.
She does when you aren't around me, craven and worse, Loki thought. "She is certainly going to start with you after she hears about this." Loki skated forward another step, the ice still quiet. "Won't Odin be annoyed, the golden prince of Asgard is too scared to take a step." He was betting on Thor's short temper and it worked.
Bristling at the last gibe, Thor carefully took a step. The ice shifted again, almost cracking. He winced at the noise.
"You aren't even listening to me!" Loki called in as exasperated a tone as he could manage. "Listen to my voice and stop getting so distracted you coward!"
Thor took another tiny step. "I am no coward!" The ice shifted under the movement but Thor was paying more attention to proving Loki wrong.
"Prove it!" Loki challenged. "I can walk, I'm not scared."
The boys circled each other slowly, Thor walking closer to land as Loki walked further onto the ice. Loki kept up his taunts.
"I take it back," Loki smiled. "You're no coward, just gullible."
Gullible? "What do you mean by-" Thor took a step back and sand crunched under his boot. He was on shore now. How had he? Loki. "Brother!" He called, eyes wide in worry. He and Loki had switched places, Thor was on shore and Loki on the cracked ice of the lake.
Loki looked down. Visible cracks were spreading along the place he stood. The ice popped and groaned. He looked up at Thor, knowledge in his gaze.
Thor's fear came back when he realized what was happening. "Brother NO!"
One thought ran through his mind: Loki couldn't swim.
The ice broke and Loki was plunged into the lake.
As you can guess this is a very different Loki then the one that attacked New York. He even has a stutter! Loki thinks he's such a disappointment but he had a lot more courage then Thor and he doesn't even known it. He'll figure it out soon!
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