Álfheimr is lovely, really. Loki just doesn’t want to be there.
And they don’t want him there, so what’s the point.
Thor had decided to go on a hunt. “For my name day,” he claims, arms flung wide (like he needed an excuse to drag Loki out to the middle of nowhere). There will be a feast, but he wishes to spend time with Them. His friends. “Well that simplifies things,” Loki had told him, “I don’t suppose I have to go then.”
Except he did. Because Thor.
So he goes on a trip. Invited, except not really, and only because it is expected that he go and not because the majority of the attendees like him. They set up camp, a nice little grove by running water. The only thing they are missing is meat to roast, which will likely take hours for the fools to find.
Well, and fire. But they usually rely on Loki for that and hell if he’s going to do it for them.
He stretches out at the base of a tree as they pool together like nervous little animals on the watch for a predator. It’s cute.
They in a bit of a quandary.
The problem is that they don’t want Loki coming with them because he ‘cheats’ (whatever that means. How do you cheat at hunting?). On the other hand, they don’t want to leave him behind because they don’t trust him to not do anything. To whatever they leave behind. Or maybe them if he decided to be a sneaky little shit and follow (which is probably a justified paranoia at this point, since he did turn everything they brought on the last trip into beetles).
Or something like that, he’s not exactly sure what they are complaining about this time. He’s honestly stopped listening.
Fandral stands, hands resting on his hips. The picture of nonchalance. He doesn’t feel it, mind you, but he’s not about to let that fact show.
“I’ll stay,” he repeats. Sif keeps staring at him. “Alright, listen. We hunt frequently, but we got off to a late start today. We're loosing light and I am starving. The entire eating process,” he gives a careful look in Volstagg’s direction, “will go faster if you get the beast and I get a blaze going. Besides, it’s not as though we are only here for one night.” He shrugs, “And I rather like my clothes where they are, so the sooner we get this done the better.”
“I don’t trust it enough to leave you behind.”
“You are not leaving me behind, you'll be back eventually. And you know for a fact that I can take care of myself.”
Sif glares at Loki, Hogun does not even look in his direction.
“It is a good plan,” Volstagg bellows, but Fandral had not been worried about him.
“You’re terrible at lighting fires.” Thor says.
“I need the practice.”
Thor tries to talk to Loki, who ignores him. They leave. It does not take Fandral long to gather enough dry wood to get started. Loki is still at the base of the tree where he had been since they arrived.
Several aborted conversations later he stands to get more wood. His attempts to start a fire (also failed) had depleted his supply of tinder and he doesn’t want to have to get up again, so he makes several trips. When he kneels down at last to try another time he looks over to Loki, still lounging by the tree, who is now playing (unhurt) with wisps of fire. Fandral barely suppresses a huff of annoyance; it would just make things worse.
“You could help me...”
The other man makes a noncommittal noise.
He watches the fire roll between slender fingers for a while longer. “Should you even be doing that? I mean, you’re made of-“
Fandral stops abruptly at the hatred on Loki’s face.
Several awkward moments pass in silence.
The fire is built before either one of them speaks again. It takes a while; he wasn’t lying about needing the practice.
“Why are you talking to me.”
“What?” He looks up in surprise. Loki is watching him quietly from across the flames. “I-”
“Well, I’ve moved to your Do Not Fuck list, haven’t I?” Fandral sputters. Considering the subject at hand Loki’s voice is incredibly casual. “Which I assume is only comprised of me and maybe some animals. So really, according to your usual standards, there is no reason for us to talk.”
“Why would you-”
“Why are you here?” Loki sits up. “Is it suddenly alright? Now that everyone who matters is gone?”
“Odin’s beard, Loki! What do you want from me?”
“I want to matte-” Loki cuts off abruptly and turns around. Now faced with a view of his back, Fandral can only assume that he had not meant to let loose that bit of information. He taps his fingers on his knees.
“You matter.” It feels awkward as he says it. Loki’s response is dejected, but does not sound irritated, which he supposes is an improvement.
“Stop lying, Fandral. You do it very poorly.”
He gets up and moves to the half buried root next to the slouching prince. Their shoulders brush. He tries to put as much ‘I’m sorry’ in his eyes as he can, because every time he’s tried to say it out loud has failed miserably. Or has translated into an accidental insult.
The look Loki gives him is nothing short of exasperated. “You’re a dick.”
He snorts, because it’s Loki.
“Yes. I am.” Fandral takes a deep breath, trying to commit himself to what he is about it do. “With that in mind,” and Loki sighs. Which makes him feel momentarily bad, but he pushes on because he needs to know this. “What is it… like?”
“What is it- what?” Loki turns to him again, irritation back in his voice. “What is what like. My existence?” he glares. “It is miserable, because I am either judged for me seidr or my form, and neither are agreeable.”
“That’s not what I-” Fandral stops, thinks ill of himself, and continues again. “I just want to understand.”
“You can’t.” It is some time before Loki releases a breath of air (funny how none of them had ever considered his need to breathe, or maybe not a need, but he still did it) and looks him over. “I am a carving that a dwarf enchanted to dance, Fandral.”
“You are not,” and he means it. “… you don’t feel like wood.”
“No, Fandral. I don’t.”
He gets the impression they are speaking about two different things.
Hours go by. They talk, because the others aren’t back yet they catch and roast a fish that Fandral eats and Loki doesn’t need to. He gives the prince his water skin. They mock each other. They sit in silence. They fight (they fight a lot), and Fandral feels lighter afterwards.
When the return of the others echoes through the trees, Loki stands and moves to where he had been before they left, leaving Fandral sitting by himself.
His friends roll into camp in a storm of noise and motion, expressing their sorrow that he was left here (or Sif does at least, Thor has gone to “rouse his brother”).
“We owe you one.” Sif tells him. Fandral looks up at her in silence, then forces a grin to split across his face.
“No, you really don’t.”