Thor crept along the wall, peering down the hallway to see if Loki was there, waiting for him. The hall was empty. Still keeping silent he made his way down the hall to press himself into the wall next to a door – the door of Loki and his shared bedroom. He nudged the door open with his foot and heard only silence from inside. Just as he was about to move to look inside something shifted and Loki was poking his head out of the door. With a war cry nothing like Odin's Thor leapt forward to tackle Loki. He passed right threw him to land on the floor.

Sitting on his bed Loki burst into laughter. "You always fall for that."

Thor frowned and picked himself off the floor. He jumped onto Loki's bed to start tickling him. Loki jumped and squealed in surprise as his sides and under his knees were tickled. He thrashed around, trying to dislodge Thor and gasped out half-hearted pleas. Thor only grinned and continued to tickle Loki. He easily dodged Loki's hands that were trying to tickle him back.

After fifteen minutes of breathless tickling Thor let up, big grin in place.

Loki's bed was messed up and his hair was in an even worse state. Thor grinned proudly. He almost screamed in protest as Loki's fingers started brushing teasingly against the bottom of his foot. He kicked out, trying to get his brother away but Loki wrapped a hand around Thor's ankle and continued to tickle the bottom of Thor's foot.

When Loki finally, finally, stopped both of them were in complete disarray and breathless with laughter.

Sprawled over Loki's unmade bed, covers dropping onto the floor, and hair crazy was how Frigga found them. She grinned softly to herself.

"Let's get the both of you straightened out before you go see Odin." She picked up a hair brush and sat on the bed behind Loki. She brushed their hair out and pressed kisses to the top of their heads with fondness.

Thor was tired after a hard day of training. His limbs ached from the weighted swords and sweat clung to his skin, making it shine. A towel hung around his neck as he limped his way back to his room. Volstagg had hit his knee pretty harshly with the lance. He intended to draw a steaming hot bath and to soak away the aches but as he pushed open the door a green light spilled out and wrapped around his body, soothing the bruises he had gained. He gaped and sighed in relief. The light quickly disappeared to leave Loki standing in the middle of their room, face shocked and worried.

As Thor took a step forward Loki took a step back. Thor frowned.

"I … please don't tell Odin." Loki begged.

"What are you talking about? He's the one that wants you practicing magic."

"B-but Thor ... this is old magic. The books are falling apart in the Library."

Thor stood silent for a minute. "You are not going to hurt anyone with this, are you Brother?"

Loki shook his head in denial.

Thor smiled faintly. "Then I see no reason for me to tell anyone of this. Besides, whatever spell you were just doing did me no harm. In fact it even soothed my body of the torment I had just put it through in training. I don't see evil in that."

Loki's eyes widened in relief and happiness. "That doesn't mean you don't have to wash, you stink."

Thor grumbled and threw his towel at Loki but grinned. They laughed quietly together as Thor begged Loki into filling the tub with steaming water with a flick of his wrist.

Loki and Thor laid next to each other silently, eyes combing the sky and picking out stars and worlds. Gold leaves fluttered above them and the green bark was perfect save the scars that were carved into it years ago. The letters were rough, carved years ago by children's hands that didn't yet know how to wield a blade.

Loki's thin fingers crawled across the space between him and Thor and took up Thor's hand. Thor held it tightly as Odin's angry words from earlier raced around his mind. It really did seem that it would always be Loki and Thor.

Loki startled awake, hair wild even plastered to his forehead with sweat.

"Loki?" Thor rolled over and rubbed his eyes as he stared at his brother.

Loki shivered.

Thor watched him for a few minutes before he threw his covers back and walked over to Loki's bed. He sat on top of the dislodged covers and held Loki's shaking hands. "You haven't dreamed of them for years, why now?"

Loki only shook his head and shrugged, unable to give the answers he wished he knew.

The two gods sat in silent darkness, hands holding onto each other as Loki tried to expel the dream of darkness, red eyes, and a blue sky that was decorated in black lines and fire.

There was a shriek that echoed through all of Asgard. Loki couldn't help but smirk at it.

It was only minutes later that Thor came barging down the hall and flung the door open to Loki's room. His entire body was thrumming with the rage Loki saw in his eyes.

Loki popped another grape into his mouth.

"Why have you done it?" Thor roared. "Sif has never done a thing to harm you, why did you cut her hair?"

Loki waved him off. "She took too much pride in it. It is not healthy to be so attached to something so insignificant. Besides," he looked pointedly at Thor, "she has done plenty to me."

Thor was shaking. He marched over to Loki and grabbed the back of his brother's tunic, hauling him up and holding him a foot above the ground.

"She's in hysterics and embarrassed to be seen. She only lets in her handmaid and she is barely holding in the laughter. You've destroyed her!" He shook Loki who finally showed a hint of fear for how Thor was treating him.

"I am sorry; is that what you want to hear?"

"No, I want to hear what you are going to do to right this."

Loki thought for a second. "I will go to the dwarves; they alone have the talent to replace her hair."

Thor nodded and let Loki go, letting him fall to the floor.

As soon as he was alone Loki cursed Thor and his wife but set out for the dwarves.

Upon finding the sons of Ivaldi in their cave he explained his reason of the visit without telling them just how Sif lost her hair. He bribed them into making her hair with sweet words, saying that only they could do such a thing. They accepted with having Loki's promise of one day returning the favor when they needed it and quickly began forging and spinning the gold for Sif's new hair. Hating to waste a good fire they created other gifts for the gods; a ship for Freyr and a spear for Odin. They gave Loki the presents and explained their magical qualities. Loki breathed thanks and good words to the dwarves with a promise to return with news of how the Gods enjoyed the gifts.

On his way out of the caves Loki had an idea to visit two other brothers who were just as well known for their skills. He entered Brokk and Eitri's cave.

Upon seeing the gifts in Loki's arms they ignored him but could not ignore the words and taunts he spoke; that they could not make gifts just as wonderful.

"Not as fine…" Brokk agreed.

"Finer." Eitri grinned.

"No." Loki said craftily, "I'll bet my head on it that you, Eitri, cannot make treasures such as these."

They took up Loki's challenge, thinking that if they won they would silence the Trickster forever, and sat him down with a horn of mead as they went to work in their forge.

Eitri put pigskin in the fire and ordered Brokk to not stop pumping the bellows until he pulled the treasure out of the fire. Upon Eitri leaving a fly buzzed in, landing on Brokk's hand and stinging him. Brokk did not stop.

Eitri pulled the pigskin out the fire, now a boar with bristles of gold. He then put in a block of gold and pulled it back out to shape it before putting it back in the fire.

Again he ordered Brokk to not stop pumping the bellows until he pulled the treasure out of the fire. When Eitri left again the fly came back and stung the back of Brokk's neck twice. He flinched but did not stop.

Eitri pulled out the gold, now an arm band of solid gold. He then worked a hunk of iron with the fire for a while before putting it in the forge for good.

"Pump the bellows now," he told his brother. "Do not stop or it will be ruined."

And once more he walked out and once more the fly buzzed around Brokk. The fly landed between Brokk's eyes and stung him once on each eyelid; blood poured into his eyes. He howled and lifted his hands off of the bellows for a few seconds to wipe the blood from them. Eitri ran back in at the sound and checked the fire.

"So close, it was so close to being ruined." He pulled out the iron, now a hammer with a short handle.

Eitri gave his brother the three treasures and told him to give them to the gods and to tell them of the properties they held.

Loki and Brokk went back to Asgard together.

There Loki told the tale, boasting that he had exploited the dwarfs' envy and greed to get the six gifts. Odin decided that he, Thor, and Freyr should decide which brothers had crafted the better gifts.

"This spear," started Loki, "is for you, Odin. Its name is Gungnir. It differs from the other spears in that it never misses its mark." He turned to Freyr.

"This vessel is for you, Freyr. Its name is Skidbladnir. It's large enough to hold all of the gods, fully armed but when you no longer need it you can take it apart, fold it, and fit it in your bag!" He then turned to Sif.

"This I owe to you, Sif." He showed the skein of gold hair to her. "As soon as you lift this to your head, it will take root and grow. You will be no less beautiful than you were before."

She took the skein of hair from Loki, raised it to her head, and cried; it was just as Loki had said.

Brokk then stepped forward and presented his gifts.

"This gold arm-band is for you, Odin. Its name is Draupnir and eight rings of its own weight will fall from it every ninth night." He turned to Freyr.

"This boar is for you, Freyr. He is called Gullinbursti. He can charge over earth, air and sea alike and nothing can keep up with him. And no matter where he goes there will be light for his bristles shine in the dark." He turned lastly to Thor.

"The third treasure goes to you, Thor. This is the hammer, Mjollnir. It can be used against anything and nothing can break it. Even if you hurl it as far as you can it will always come back to you." The gods stared in awe at the hammer.

Odin, Thor, and Freyr wasted no time in announcing their answer. All the gifts were marvelous but Mjollnir was the most valuable; it could protect the gods against the giants.

"Brokk, you and your brother have won the wager."

Brokk grinned triumphantly and turned to Loki. "Your head."

"Wait!" Loki cried as Brokk started for him. "What could you do with my head? I'll give you its weight in gold."

"We have no future in that and there is no future for you." A few gods were happy and surprised to see the Trickster cornered. Thor sat forward, slightly worried.

"Then catch me if you want my head so badly!" With a wink Loki sprinted away, the laughter of the gods following him.

"If you had any honor, you'd help me!" The dwarf protested.

Lofun stepped down from her seat and exited the hall; she came back minutes later, pulling Loki by the back of his tunic. No one stopped her, even though Thor wanted to, when she handed him over to Brokk. It was known she hated Loki.

Loki protested and spoke once more as Brokk reached for his knife.

"It is true you have a claim on my head however, you cannot have any part of my neck."

Thor let out a sigh of relief as the other gods chuckled, understanding that Loki got the better of Brokk.

"In that case, since your head is mine at the least, I will sew your lips together to stop your sweet talk."

Loki shrugged. "Nothing but fine words!"

Brokk tried to skewer Loki's lips with his knife but he couldn't even draw a drop of blood.

Muttering to himself and wishing for something sharper his brother's awl suddenly appeared at his feet. Grinning he picked it up and punctured Loki's lips with it and tied his lips together with a leather thong.

Loki shrieked and cried silently behind his sewn lips.

After having his lips sewn together Loki hid in the dark corridors and corners of Asgard. He didn't wish living eyes to see him.

It was during the night when he was prowling the grounds and glaring at the shining stars above his head that he was found a few months later.

"Brother." Thor sighed in relief. There were plenty of times that his brother disappeared for months on end but he still worried; this time even more so than any other because he no longer had the use of words.

Loki turned from him resolutely and looked towards the empty courtyard. The way the roses shined in the night made him think of the blood that spilled from his lips when they were sewn together.

"Brother, please. I have been worried for you since the first night. I waited in your room for hours and when you never came to bed I knew …. I knew you were not okay."

Loki threw a look of disgust over his shoulder.

Thor frowned with worry and spoke to Loki's back. "When did this happen? When did you become so cold to me? When did we grow so much apart? I never wanted that between us, believe me Loki."

Tears slowly sprang to Loki's narrowed eyes. Thor didn't want that? Then why did he push him away so much? Why did he throw so much hate in Loki's direction?

Loki spun around and started angrily gesturing at Thor, jabbing at his chest. Fire burned in his eyes turning them yellow and green.

Thor reached for Loki's hands and gathered them in his larger ones, cupping them like they were delicate birds. They clenched in his hold as Loki squeezed his eyes shut in concentration.

Thor was suddenly blown backwards by a strong force. He looked up at Loki with wide eyes from where he had landed. He never realized how tall his younger brother had gotten. "I'm sorry Loki. I'm sorry for what happened and if I did you any wrong but let me help you."

Loki had opened his eyes and now rolled them at Thor, going to turn away.

"Please." Thor breathed.

Loki stumbled at the word.

Thor slowly picked himself off of the ground and stepped towards Loki. "Please Loki. Let me help."

Loki's shoulders shuddered as Thor turned him around.

Thor stroked his brother's cheeks and murmured about the more ridiculous of the palace activity, trying to put him at ease as he raised a sharp knife.

Loki still flinched.

With care Thor slowly cut the leather that held Loki's lips together. As it was cut more tension leaked from Loki's shoulders and in the end he was slumped against Thor's shoulder.

"Why?" he rasped, his voice unused for so many months.

Thor tilted Loki's face up and gently touched the wounds. "Because I love you."

Loki shuddered and shook his head in Thor's palms. He'd take it, he'd take the love and abuse it and hurt it and love it back, but he would never really accept it. For when he was hiding in the shadows and slinking around Asgard he learned a few things about himself. And who would ever love a monster destined to burn?

Loki was back to reading the old books in the Library that were falling apart – the old magic books. He often murmured the spells to himself to see what they would do. Half of them didn't even work.

One evening he was in the library stretched out and picking at a plate of food next to him – he still had a small apatite after all that time without nourishment when his mouth was stitched shut. Loki had scabs on his lips.

He heard the door to the library being opened but didn't panic. Not many people came in and from the echoing footsteps it Loki knew it was Thor.

Ever since Thor found him in slinking around in the courtyard three months ago he kept a close watch on Loki, to make sure that he was okay and getting used to people once more. Thor didn't like the look that sometimes entered his brother's eye.

Loki frowned at a spell in the book he was reading. The fading text didn't make much sense. He muttered the spell; nothing happened. Thor jostled his foot seconds later.

"Guards are distinguishing lights in the halls, are you tired?"

Loki shrugged and took another sip of his mead.

Thor peered down at Loki's face; there were light bruises under his eyes. He sighed; Loki didn't seem to understand his body anymore such as if it needed food or sleep. "Come on Loki, you should go to bed."

With a sigh Loki closed the book and placed it back on the shelf. "Fine, however, if you're pushing me to sleep you should sleep too."

"I will." Thor responded with a smile. Sometimes Loki seemed a bit child-like.

They walked down the dim halls together and entered Loki's room.

"You don't need to watch me fall asleep Thor."

"Yes, I think I do. If I leave you alone you'll go back to the Library and continue to read."

Loki scoffed but undressed himself for bed, slipping between the covers only in his breeches.

Thor walked over and leaned down to kiss his brother on the forehead. "Goodnight." As he tried to stand up Loki caught the front of his tunic. His eyes were already closed when Thor looked down at his face. With a small smile Thor climbed on top of the bed covers and fell asleep next to his brother.

-0-

When Thor woke up it didn't feel like he was about to fall off the bed. Did Loki already get up? He rolled onto his side and looked towards the door. There was no sign of Loki leaving. Frowning he turned back over and then started so badly he fell off the bed.

Loki peered over the edge of the bed, his eyes wide and confused. "What?" his voice was child-like and his face once more had the fullness of an infant.

Thor raised himself to his elbows and looked up at the young Loki in awe. "Loki?"

"Yes, what?" Young Loki frowned down at him. Thor gaped and slowly got up.

"Did … did you perform any magic last night that you weren't familiar with?"

Loki thought. "Perhaps?"

"You might want to look in a glass."

Loki went to get off of the bed and frowned at the sudden height he didn't remember from the other night. He awkwardly clambered off and then started inspecting his hands, arms, and legs with narrowed eyes. "I'm a child." He stated in a voice low for a child but still rather high.

Thor pressed his lips together.

"I'm a child." He said again, pitch rising. He turned to Thor, wide-eyed. "Thor!"

Thor stepped in and picked Loki up, he fit well in Thor's arms.

"Put me down!" he demanded.

"Loki," Thor looked stern but spoke gently to Loki, "whatever magic you performed, it did this to you. If we find the book again might it have a counter spell?"

Loki bit on his full bottom lip. Thor pulled it out from under Loki's teeth and then inspected it, the scars were still there. "Well while you think on that then how about we go get some food?"

Loki looked panicked for a few seconds before Thor comforted him. "Just you and me; let's get food from the kitchens and do a picnic?"

Loki smiled. He had the dimples that Thor remembered from childhood.

Thor grinned and stood up, taking Loki with him. Loki didn't complain.

-0-

With a bag full of fruit, cheese, meat, and bread Loki and Thor walked away from the palace, making sure not to be seen. Thor led Loki to the golden-leafed tree they had once carved their names into. As he set out the picnic Loki went for the canteen of mead he had brought for himself. "No." He easily held it out of Loki's reach.

Loki pouted up at him. "I'm thirsty!"

"And you're a child as well. I brought you some juice." He handed over the other canteen.

Still pouting Loki took it.

"So, do you think there would be a counter-spell in the book?"

Loki shook his head. "Most of the spells that did work wore off after a while because I hadn't known the magic. I don't know why this one is sticking." He bit on his bottom lip.

Thor reached over and pulled it out from between Loki's teeth. "So are we just going to wait until this wears off?"

"There is nothing better to do Thor."

Thor grinned.

Loki narrowed his eyes at him, a bit suspicious.

"We're going to have fun today."

And they did. They explored Asgard, once more finding the beautiful secrets they had forgotten as they had grown up. There was a small pool that they swam in and trees that they climbed. They climbed down the sharp cliffs to secret caves. Loki made Thor a crown of leaves at one point and rode on Thor's shoulders when he started to get tired. They star gazed at the golden-leafed tree once more, as they had done years ago. A tickle fight was somewhere in their fun-filled day. And sneaking back into Asgard was the best part, according to Loki, because Thor could not be quiet to save his life and he tried to disappear into the wall each time he saw someone coming. He didn't realize that even as a child Loki was still performing magic and making them invisible to on-lookers.

Thor slid into Loki's room and set his brother on the bed. Loki yawned and Thor smiled, poking the dimples that appeared once more. He saw them a lot that day. Loki stuck his tongue out at Thor before pulling his shirt off and sliding under the covers of his bed.

"Goodnight Brother." Thor spoke quietly with a smile as he kissed Loki's forehead. As he tried to stand up Loki caught the front of his tunic. His eyes were already closed when Thor looked down at his face. With a small smile Thor climbed on top of the bed covers and fell asleep next to his brother.

(Loki was back to normal the next morning and enthusiastically woke a surprised Thor up with kisses.)

After Heimdall called them back to Asgard Loki and Thor took one look at each other and promptly burst into laughter. Heimdall looked on as unemotional as always, looking unsurprised to see the Princes in dresses.

Thor and Loki clasped each other's forearms and stumbled back up the palace in giggles.

"Where have you two been?" Frigga stood at the gates of the Palace, hands on her hips and lips pursed. Her eyes flashed in recognition. "And are those two of my best dresses?" Her voice was rising in pitch.

Loki pressed his lips together to keep from laughing even more and took a deep breath. Thor was in the same position and it seemed he was going to be the one explaining things. Again.

"Sorry Mother but it was an emergency."

She arched an eyebrow.

"The Ice Giants had taken Mjollnir, intending to invade Asgard within the next few days since Thor would no longer have the hammer. They had hidden it beneath the ice and Thyrm was asking for Freyja's hand in exchange for it."

"Of course they would want Freyja." Frigga pursed her lips and huffed. She was always a bit bitter to her sister about being the most wanted of the Vanir line. She narrowed her eyes at the Princes again. "However, that would not explain why the both of you are in my best dresses."

"Well, of course Freyja wasn't going to marry the Ice Giant King so, naturally, Thor dressed as her and I as her handmaid. Dressed in the best that Asgard has to offer meant the Ice Giants were easily fooled." Loki grinned and bit back the giggles that were starting to rise again. Thor's eyes narrowed and he blushed just a tiny bit.

Frigga grinned slightly. "I see there was more to it."

Loki nodded excitedly, lips stretching into a full grin. "Thyrm ordered Mjollnir to be brought out of the ice so the 'bride' could be hallowed and blessed by Var." Loki began to let a few laughs fall, remembering Thor silently freak out next to him.

Frigga let out a laugh of surprise, quickly covering her mouth afterwards. Her eyes danced with mirth. Thor scowled.

"However, Thor was too swift for them once he saw Mjollnir, his precious little hammer," Loki cooed and winked at Thor. His brother glared at him. "He easily grabbed it out of their hands and bashed their heads in!"

Frigga sighed and shook her head. "As long as no war comes of this I praise you. Any Ice Giants come this way and you, Thor, will be dealing with them. Alone."

Thor nodded and spoke for the first time upon returning. "Yes, Mother."

Frigga turned and began to walk away. "Oh and Thor, please be careful removing the dress. Any damage done to it and you will be repairing it yourself by hand and with no help from Loki."

Thor scowled and Loki began to laugh in earnest.

Loki and Thor knew, logically speaking, that no one could hide from Heimdall. That didn't stop them from trying however.

-0-

Thor peered around the corner and grinned and quickly turned back to Loki. "Go, go, go, go!" With a mischievous smile only children could smile Loki slipped into the kitchens where he and Thor knew for a fact were some freshly baked goods.

Seconds later guards came around the corner even though Thor knew from studying the hall for the past week that the guards weren't supposed to be there for another eleven counts of 'By Odin's beard'. His eyes widened and he slipped into the kitchen where Loki was just clambering onto the counter.

"Hurry, guards are coming Loki!" He watched with wide eyes as his brother grabbed two small cakes and jumped off the counter.

Loki gave a cake to Thor and then they were both running for it. The guards were after them as soon as they saw the boys dash from the kitchen. By the time they made it back to their room however the cakes were broken and smeared over their little hands.

Frigga could only try to hide her laughter and Odin just shook his head when the guards brought Thor and Loki to them.