Loki always knew he was to marry one of Odin’s sons. And, in the same breath, Loki always knew it would be Thor.
It was why he’d been brought to Asgard in the beginning. The House of Laufey would give forth a child too small, and he, in turn, would be given to Asgard—an ancient prophecy. A babe swaddled from the frigid plains of Jotunheim; a bringer of peace and of permanent bridges. He was raised by the All-Father and Mother, alongside their own younglings. A son, and a brother, never a ward or hostage.
Still, Loki always remembered his purpose.
Baldr, the youngest, was closest to his age. There wasn’t much to say about him. Third in line for the throne; smart, but not clever; plain in looks and personality. He was a kind soul with a gentle heart, and Loki supposed it wasn’t the worst thing to call him brother. Still, Baldr’s freedom would lie in a marriage of his choosing. No one lined the gates of Asgard for a chance at the hand of a third prince; he held nothing but Odin’s name.
Tyr, the eldest, and the heir, was another story. Nearly a decade Loki’s senior, he was bred and groomed for politics and warfare. Tall, and broad, but with all of Odin’s worst features. He lacked beauty but held a fierce amount of power; which, Loki couldn’t deny was attractive in its own right. It more than made up for his stern demeanor and less-than-impressive conversation skills.
But Loki would not be wed to Tyr. He was still of Jotnar blood, no matter the glamor to pale his skin and bleed the red from his eyes. No, Odin would fashion a political marriage with a nice Vanir girl, someone who would sit pretty on the throne and not cause a revolt within the people.
Which, left Thor. Not that this was any shame.
Thor was the middle child and unburdened with tedious court affairs. He spent most of his days on the training grounds; sweating and cursing, fighting and winning. Loki spent long summer days in the sweltering sun just to study the maps of the muscle in his arms and back when he swung a broadsword. Thor was truly the most handsome creature he’d ever laid eyes on. Golden hair, and a golden tan, bright blue eyes that sparked a distant memory of an icy home.
And he wasn’t all brawn. Thor was clever and adventurous, and he made Loki laugh so hard his sides split.
That was to say, he did.
Something changed as the years crept on. Thor still called him brother but didn’t much act like it. He avoided Loki, scarcely even making eye contact at dinner. He planned more and more hunting trips, rejecting Loki and Baldr’s attempts to tag along. If brought up, he denied it and fled to pummel something with his fists or hammer.
It was all very frustrating. But, Loki supposed, could be chalked up to pre-wedding jitters. After all, he was coming of age soon, and the announcement would be ringing throughout the realm.
In this, Loki could be patient.
“What?” Loki lamented. “Lady Freyja—” Her glare cut him, and he quickly corrected himself. “Mother, please tell me this is a cruel joke.”
The line of her mouth flattened, and she fixed Loki with a stare that let him know she was vaguely insulted. He couldn’t find it in himself to care. This was quite possibly the worst news he had ever received. Loki dropped down and gathered the hem of her gown in his hands, pressing his forehead to her knees where she sat.
His world crashed down around him, everything he had ever known—a lie.
“Loki, dear,” Freyja took hold of his chin and tilted his head up to meet her eyes. Her touch gentle, but her voice stern. “You are born with the blood of kings. You were meant to rule, haven’t you said so yourself?”
Loki sniffed and blinked away his tears, fighting the urge to jerk away. How dare she use his own words against him. Of course, he was meant to rule— he was cleverer than half of Asgard’s court. But that didn’t mean…
“Tyr?” Loki moaned again, shoulders sagging in a sulk. “You truly wish to wed me to such a—”
“This is my son you speak of,” she warned, and Loki clamped his mouth shut. “Your brother and your betrothed.”
Betrothed. He could wretch.
A shiver ran down his spine at the thought of sharing a bed with Tyr. Beast was what he had planned on calling him. Rough, and with a mind only for politics and war tactics. What would they even discuss in the privacy of their bedchamber? He was dreadfully bored already.
“I thought, perhaps…” Loki swallowed, averted his gaze. It felt silly now. “Thor,” he finished dumbly.
Freyja laughed, but not unkindly. He felt his cheeks redden, and his eyes stung with newly-formed tears. She meant it not in mockery, but it felt that way all the same. What a fool he had been, to think they would marry him to their golden son?
“You were always meant to rule alongside Asgard, as a symbol of permanent peace,” she said softly, without knowledge of the impact in her words. The implication that he was no more than a symbol. He recoiled as if slapped.
Loki realized, then, that the sinking stone in the pit of his stomach was his heart.
He couldn’t fulfill his prophecy with Thor, so they sold him to the future king. It mattered not what Loki wanted, what his heart desired. It only mattered that he slotted himself into the correct role and played his part.
Loki once cherished being chosen. But it was then he decided that prophecies were outdated, and useless in measure.
He, Loki of both Asgard and Jotunheim, would scribe his own fate and see it played out.
The breeze offered a cool respite from the dry Asgard air. Loki lay, solemn in state, along a grassy knoll overlooking the courtyard. Idly he tossed an apple in the air, caught it, and repeated the gesture until his palms stung.
“It won’t be so bad. At least you know him.”
Loki caught the apple one last time, it slapped against his skin, and he shot a dagger-like glare toward Baldr. His brother— his sweet, and naïve brother. He probably truly thought that. But of course, Baldr had never been in love; and one day, when he was, he would be allowed to marry the sorry sap.
For the fates had woven nothing into Baldr’s tapestry. He was free to do as he chose.
Loki sighed, propping himself up on his elbows. Baldr didn’t deserve the blunt force of his bitterness, so he forced a smile, which his brother returned in kind.
“Maybe not,” he lied. Loki actually knew little to nothing about his older brother.
“Are you nervous?”
Loki bit at his bottom lip, turning the apple in one hand, watching the way the sun gleamed off its skin. Was he? A loaded question, really. There was much to come with this marriage. He knew his fair share of politics, though he wasn’t groomed as excessively as Tyr. There was little chance he’d be needing much of it; his duties would most likely be domestic in nature.
“A little,” Loki said, this time the truth. “Nothing I can’t handle, I’m sure.”
For the strangest reason, Baldr’s cheeks grew red and ruddy. He picked at a blade of grass, seemingly interested in the way it twirled in his fingers.
Oh, Loki realized, perhaps they were speaking of different aspects of the marriage.
“Have you ever…?”
Ah, so they were.
“No,” Loki said. Another truth, surely a new record for him. “Have you?”
Baldr shook his head furiously. “No, of course not.”
“Of course,” Loki echoed; voice slightly distant.
A half-formed idea began to take shape. Loki knew himself to be attractive, desirable on most days. He lacked the bulk of his brothers, but there was a certain appeal held in his waif-like stature. Pale skin to hide his natural blue, eyes green, and with a retainment of his sharp Jotun features.
It would be in his best interest to use his natural beauties to his advantage.
And that interest was to seduce Thor into choosing him, and making it so neither Odin nor Freyja, would reject the proposal. To do this, he would need practice in the one art he wasn’t well-versed in.
There were plenty of stable boys that looked his way and a fair number that Loki may have considered. But he needed to learn to charm a brother—and there one so happened to be. Perfectly amenable.
Loki looked to Baldr, letting his eyes droop to a sultry gaze; the way same he’d seen the kitchen wenches ogle Thor.
He shifted so that he laid on his side, pillowing his head in his hand, and tilted slightly to expose his bare neck. Loki watched Baldr’s eyes glance over to him once or twice, the little blade of grass being wrung for all its worth between his fingers.
This was new and easy.
“What if I’m disappointing?” Loki asked with a slight pout.
“I don’t—” Baldr swallowed audibly, stammering through his sentence. “I don’t think you would be.”
Loki felt a thrill ignite in him. Oh, this was fun. Had Baldr been harboring affection for him all this time? Did he also think Loki was set to marry the wrong Odinson?
He reached out, placing a hand on his brother’s knee. It jerked under his touch, and Loki gave him a sharp smile. “How can we know for sure?”
Baldr tensed and finally admired him properly. The poor thing looked like a rose from their mother’s garden, and Loki wagered the thin break of sweat on his forehead wasn’t all from the heat. Gears turning in his head, Baldr blinked and stared like a broken wind-up toy, mouth slightly unhinged.
“Baldr,” Loki chastised. “Would you like to practice?”
Loki rolled his eyes and hoped it passed for fondly. “Yes, with me.”
“We don’t have to.”
“I want to!” Baldr blurted, hand coming to cover his mouth. He recovered moments later, leaning closer into Loki and looking earnestly into his eyes. Repeating, softer, “I want to.”