"It is for my birthday, Loki. Would you say no to a birthday wish?"
"Please, just… Not this. It will take all day, and I have important matters to tend to."
"More important than your mothers birthday gift?"
"That’s… not what I was saying."
"It’s settled, then!"
Her light hands on his armoured shoulders would not have been enough to make him take a seat in the chair provided, had he resisted, but of course, he could not. He could, however, keep trying to talk her out of the idea.
"I will get you something else. Anything. There must be something more useful than a rendering of my features to hang on your wall."
"Last year, you brought me flowers."
"You love flowers, mother. I do not understand -"
"They were illusions. Skillfully made, yes, but you knew they would vanish when I touched them."
"I had no time. This year, I will do better."
"Your brother gave me -"
"Mother! Please!" Loki buried his face in his hands. "I know how this story ends. If you have any love for me, spare me another retelling."
She was silent, until he glanced up at her again, his face still in pained lines.
"Is this the wrong moment to tell you that your brother’s portrait was finished yesterday?"
He heaved a sigh.
"I will be scowling. It will not be pretty."
"Portraits are not meant to be pretty, darling." She leaned forward to place a kiss on his hair. "They are meant to be honest. Whatever your face shows, I shall treasure."
There was no way out after those words.
Walking out of the room, she stopped to turn back, skirts twirling. “And no cheating. I will be back, later, and I will know.”
Loki rolled his eyes as she left. When he turned to face the artist, he caught the man staring.
"Not a word."
"No, my prince."
There was a short silence, only filled with the whisper of brush on canvas.
"Maybe, if I could suggest… Just, a hint of a smile?"
"You heard the queen." Loki sneered. "She wants honesty on her wall. This is what I offer. Honestly. Now, paint."
The artist swollowed. Hard. “Yes, my prince.”
And he did. Honestly.