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I Remember a Shadow

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Some part of Loki cannot quite believe he has grown—that they both have. Some part of him is still, forever, the child who tried continuously to be as fast, as strong, as loved as his brother but could never measure up. Some part of him is still, forever, the brother who wanted to be near Thor anyway, even when Thor paid him hardly any notice at all. And some part of him still and always sees that older boy when he looks at Thor—a spoiled young prince who got everything he wanted and thought that was the natural order of the world.

And really, it’s not Loki’s fault he still sees that sometimes. In many ways, things have hardly changed. Thor is still the spoiled young prince and Loki is still his adoring little brother forever trailing after him, though Loki’s envy has grown with the years.

And though of course they didn’t always do this. This is a relatively recent development in the centuries of their lives.

Loki remembers the first time, panting as Thor let him sneak a hand down the front of his trousers, wrapping his fingers around soft, damp skin and hard, hot flesh, stroking. Thor had made a choked sound—Loki liked that, his own breath catching at what Thor was granting him, what he was doing—but moments later Thor’s hand had clamped onto his wrist.

"Wait,” Thor said, breathless. "Wait, not here, I want to…”

And when Loki tried to twist out of his grip, stubborn in his desire to continue, to keep going, it had turned into a struggle.

It had ended in a struggle, too. Eventually Thor had won out, dragging Loki back to his chambers before tearing the clothes off them both, only to hesitate, uncertain, once they stood in the middle of a floor scattered with half-ruined garments.

"And now what,” Loki sneered, folding arms across his pale chest, defensive.

They had been nude together countless times, and it never ceased to make him just a bit uncomfortable, the differences between them and how the sight of Thor affected him. How many years he had sneaked glances at the powerful, gleaming body beside his own scrawny one in the baths, full of hunger and awe and envy in equal measure. It now made him uncomfortable enough to snarl and snap despite his own obvious arousal bobbing heavy between his legs.

"If you think I'm going to let you…”

Thor hadn’t let him finish before grabbing him and kissing him, and the kiss was a struggle as well; Thor tried to maneuver them both toward the bed and Loki resisted, just out of principle.

But it ended with Loki pinned beneath Thor against the mattress, Thor growling above him.

"Stop that,” Thor had grumbled. "You were the one who wanted this. You still want it,” he added, grinding hips against him, proving that he could feel Loki’s erection, that Loki couldn’t pretend it wasn’t twitching and leaking against his skin. "Why must you make everything difficult?”

Loki had not answered except to laugh and push his own body up to rut against him, to seal his mouth against Thor’s and grab him by the hair, yanking and swallowing the resulting curses and cries.

They rubbed off against each other that first time, grappling and shoving, until both their thighs and bellies were sticky with sweat and spend.

Thor had collapsed atop him after, and Loki had kept one hand at the small of Thor’s back, simply resting it there.

The pleasure of it, of having his brother in his arms and in his bed, after years of secret longing, was undeniable perfection. Even the struggle, the belligerence of their coupling—he could hardly complain about that. It was everything he’d wanted.

Yet some part of him lay there with Thor’s bulk on him and grew furious.

"Off,” he’d snarled at last, and Thor had rolled agreeably away, laughing at Loki’s disgruntled groans.

*

The part of Loki that cannot believe they are grown is in fact the reason why he’s there the first time Thor lifts the hammer. It is the only explanation. He is tagging along at his brother’s side as if there is nothing of greater interest in all the nine realms than what the great Thor Odinson is doing that day, and when Thor decides that he wishes to test himself against the mighty weapon once more, Loki does not hesitate to follow. Thor had long ago declared that he meant the thing to be his, and Loki had always both been certain that his brother would succeed—that child part of Loki still believes there is nothing Thor cannot do—and equally certain that he will not succeed now. That it is still far in the future, that moment where he will prove himself undeniably worthy beyond any shred of doubt.

So Loki is there the first time Mjolnir accedes to being lifted by the golden prince. Loki’s eyes widen as at first it budges but an inch, then with Thor’s grunting roar comes up off its pedestal. With air beneath it, it is like it has shed its immobility, gravity sheeting from it like water: Thor hefts it more easily to the height of his shoulders, and then he is shouting with joy as he holds it above his head, and at the same instant there is a distant cracking sound so deep it might have come from far under the ground in some great wyrm’s lair.

Thor laughs, swings it lightly, beaming at the hammer as it glints and dances for him—how can such a heavy thing dance?—as Loki stands to one side, forgotten.

Loki feels his own heart pounding in his chest, but he can’t hear it for the steady back-and-forth roll of the thunder.

Word gets around quickly.

Loki seems to blink and the next moment he is in the middle of a crowded feast hall, being shoved at by the elbows of Thor’s friends. He looks over at his brother: Thor is glowing, so much that Loki almost wonders if having finally lifted the hammer changed him. If the lightning got under his skin. Loki notices almost nothing else that night.

But somehow it doesn’t occur to him what it means; his mind simply overlooks what he knows, what he surely already is aware of. He had heard the stories that surrounded the hammer all his life, and somehow he fails to piece the two sides together until it is done for him. Perhaps because it is too huge. Not until someone wonders aloud whether this means the Allfather will at last name his successor. But as soon as the words are spoken, Loki can never unknow it. It is certain. Bitter envy—like an eternal spring inside him—wells up, and when he remembers again that first thunder, it sounds now like doom.  

It is three days—three ale-drunk days of feasting and celebration throughout the city—before Loki can get his brother alone. And he only manages it then by trickery, whispering in his ear and telling him, in a very serious tone, that he is being summoned on a matter of some importance.

Thor comes with him, following Loki out into the relative quiet of the corridor before enquiring exactly who had summoned him.

“I did,” Loki admits with a smirk. Then he leans close to whisper once more. "I want you.”

Thor squirms at that, enough for Loki to know that the idea appeals.

This time, when they reach Thor’s chambers, undressing involves taking the hammer from where it is slung from his belt, and Loki watches that in almost the same furtive way that he used to sneak glances at his brother’s muscled thighs. The sturdy pedestal has already been brought, and Thor sets the weapon there carefully before looking back to his brother.

It is a battle again. All of Loki’s frustration goes into it, and perhaps that is clearer than he intends: when Thor nearly pins him this time he breaks the rules, adds magic to his own strength and uses both to reverse their positions until he is knelt between Thor’s sprawled legs, fumbling beside the bed for some slick and nipping at Thor’s chest with sharp teeth, head down so that he does not meet his brother’s eyes.

"You ought to show me more respect than that, you know,” Thor huffs, in jest or in a frustration that mirrors Loki’s own. "I have the hammer now.”

"Oh yes?” Loki answers. "Of course I was unaware of that, O mighty one. I have not just been surrounded by the evidence of that for days or anything of the sort.”

But it does not come out with as much humor as he intended. He feels his cheeks burning, hates to be so obvious.

"You’re jealous,” Thor says, staring and sounding more shocked than accusing, and Loki does not bother to deny it. It’s better than that Thor should fail to notice.

“I am.”

“Are you not happy for me?”

“I am that as well,” he says, and it is no lie. He is capable of feeling both things at once, the uneasy swirl of them, and his head sinks forward to thump softly on Thor’s chest. “I am. But let us talk about that later.”

For a moment there is silence, Thor’s breaths lifting him and Thor’s heartbeat trembling against his cheek. He feels Thor nod.

Loki has to palm his own flagging erection, urging it back to attention—he needs not to be thinking of anything else but this, needs not to think of anything but the way Thor spreads his thighs wider as Loki nudges forward again, his brother giving in to him, his brother letting him press the head of his cock against his slicked entrance, his brother…

Loki is buried deep, eyes squeezed shut against the intensity of it. He needs this to be a battle. He needs to think it is one he might win. He pushes until Thor responds the way he wants, until they are fucking like it is war. He needs to find them equally matched—or at least near enough for him to deserve his place at Thor’s side.

In the end he sits back on his haunches, hands to Thor’s hips as he thrusts, watching enthralled as his brother strokes himself, body arching, head tossing back and forth and stomach tensing and trembling as he gets closer. Loki’s mouth is dry and he is not sure how it can be that he wants even now, with Thor clenching around him and orgasm but moments away, how it can be that even this is not enough. He wonders if he will ever be satisfied, no matter how much of this he tastes, no matter how much he gets.  

Afterward he dozes briefly in Thor’s bed, and his mind wanders. Some part of him is still a child—a child sneaking back to Mjolnir’s pedestal on his own after Thor had stalked away from it in frustration. He remembers reaching out to touch but he cannot now remember any thoughts he might have had; his mind seemed blank but for nervousness, and he had startled at a distant noise and nearly run but stopped himself, reached out again, put both hands on the haft, hearing someone whispering over and over again… “please, please, please…

Uneasiness swirls in his chest as he lies there staring up at the ceiling. He rolls over to distract himself with the sight of his sleeping brother, the slack mouth and the dim light of the room playing across his cheeks, his nose, the hand curled beside him on the bedding. Completely at ease, with nothing at all to trouble his sleep or keep him from it. Eventually Loki has to leave before frustration can overtake him completely; he slips away, pausing only to tug the blankets up over his brother so that Thor won’t wake up cold.

In some ways, nothing has changed at all.

Loki does not let himself so much as glance toward the hammer as he goes.

*

Chapter Text

They fight a lot over the coming days. Loki cannot help himself; he takes any excuse to stir up trouble between himself and his brother. He remembers having done this as a child as well, goading Thor into fits of temper, and gloating when it brought punishment down on both their heads—he could bear it, so long as it meant seeing Thor suffer as well. He remembers having stopped when Frigga took him aside and told him that they were both loved equally; he remembers her embracing him, enfolding him in her arms, and for the first time in his life he felt trapped there, angrier than before because she had seen into him, seen everything he would have kept hidden, but she did not understand.

He has grown slightly subtler, at least. The result is also somewhat different now. They are both grown men, if only just, and their disagreements are their own to resolve. So instead of Frigga’s warm embrace he is eventually confronted with his brother’s fists.

"What is wrong with you?” Thor growls—baffled, annoyed, but not to the point of fury, the point Loki was aiming for—as he shoves Loki against the wall and holds him there.

"Nothing is wrong with me,” Loki lies, grinning. But he does know, after all these years together, how to infuriate his brother, and this time it ends in battle without fucking, with Loki’s fist casting the first blow, deceitful and unexpected, turning Thor’s face aside, and Thor’s retaliation coming swiftly after it. Afterward, sprawled on scraped hands and bruised knees, Loki spits out a mouthful of blood, heart racing, and watches Thor go. Long after he has stalked off—Loki can hear thunder rumbling in the distance, and the sound pleases him, knowing Thor’s mood must be dark indeed—he is still sitting there with his flesh purpling in places, welts throbbing hot where the worst blows fell, like thick knots under his skin. He could visit the healers, but he won’t. He could likely do a decent job of patching himself up, but he has no desire to do that either.  

Once back in his own rooms, he strips his clothes off and admires his bruises in the mirror. He thinks he should probably be disturbed to find his cock thickening a bit in interest. He isn’t. He touches each bruise, thinking of how it felt, how furious Thor had looked, glaring at him, roaring back. The thunder that even now still drums across the sky just because of their little argument.

But this time, some days later, what finally stops Loki’s tirade is not outside intervention.

It is Thor, avoiding him.

The morning after their fight Thor is nowhere to be found, and he seems determined to keep as far from his brother as he reasonably can.

For several days Loki pretends not to care. Then he takes to loitering in Thor’s favored places, hoping to have a chance to merely fall back into their old orbits without having to explain himself, but the few times his brother appears, Thor makes a face and turns on his heel before Loki can react.

It hurts, but Thor cannot hide from him forever, and Loki knows it. Part of him wants to go to Thor’s door himself and tender his apology if that is what it will take to be back in his brother’s good graces. Another part is far too much enjoying the tension that bunches in Thor’s shoulders when they come into each other’s presence, as of course they must sometimes.

He thinks the apology would have won out eventually—when desire flared too hot at least, surely he would have given in enough to feign repentance—but it is not given the chance.

*

Odin summons them both. They are the only three in the broad expanse of the echoing throne room, and Loki’s dread is overridden by the strange sensation that he and his brother are both still children.

Odin surely looked the same then, looming over them both. And Loki surely felt as small as this.

He stands to Thor’s left, viscerally aware of the hammer that dangles from the right side of Thor’s belt. He glances to his brother and for the first time in days Thor meets his eyes. From his look, it seems Thor does not know what this is about either. Loki feels glad of that, tries to take comfort from it.

Then, without hesitation or pause, Odin tells them both that he has made his decision and Thor is to be king.

Loki listens to the rest without hearing—still unready, not for many years of course—but a numbness has come over him. He watches Odin smile at his firstborn, and he becomes distantly aware, through the hum that is filling the air around his head, that Odin is speaking a few words to him, like an afterthought, and he nods dutifully when he sees his father’s lips stop moving.

Loki understands all at once, the hum filled with an awareness that spreads from a single sharp point to an eclipse.

It is, all at once, painfully obvious from the tone of Odin’s voice and the look upon his face that there is no surprise in this decision. No sense of resolution of a question long unanswered. Simply inevitability.

So many things fall into place then.

As Loki stands there, numb and silent, his entire life shifts into focus so he can finally see what he has always missed before, and the shock of it steals the breath from his lungs. His heart skips, erratic. There is a sudden tingling that springs up all over his skin, in his fingertips, on his cheeks, and he can barely manage to stay standing, straight and tall and silent, as his life plays out again before his eyes and he finally understands everything.

Never would Odin have made him king; it was always going to be Thor, and the competition that had always been fostered between them was only ever a pretense, covering what was already known.

When Odin dismisses them, Loki stumbles away, numb and voiceless and unaware of his own feet.

By the time he slips away from his brother and makes it back to his own chambers, locking himself in with a near-silent click, he’s not quite sure why he believed otherwise. Why he ever thought he could compare, imagining that if he were simply a little bit stronger, a little bit cleverer, a little bit faster, a little bit better...  

He does not weep, even when he is alone; it is not loss he feels but shock. No anger comes, but many things begin to make sense that never did before.

He never had a chance. And that was because he did not deserve one. It must be so.  

Loki wishes he could be angry, but there is no injustice in this, nothing for him to rage against. Only simple truth. Things he never saw before. Things he never wanted to see, though they were right before his eyes.  

When the next day dawns, he stands staring out the window, trying to discern how it is that the realm has so completely changed. The city around him lies in toppled ruins. The distant mountains have been razed. The stars have gone out.

When the knock comes on his door he frowns, uncertain, but he answers it, crossing the floor as if he were swimming, limbs heavy, and he could not expect less who he finds beyond it. Thor. Thor looking at him with concern.

"Loki… are you alright?”

It’s the first thing Thor has said to him since they fought, and Loki finds himself blinking, trying to remember how to shape his lips into a smile. "Yes,” he says, the word fragile on his tongue. He strengthens it and tries again. "Yes, come in, brother. Please.”  

Thor does, and Loki watches him with a completely new sort of hunger. For years he craved to prove himself against his brother; that need had driven him, frustrated him, entangled him. But now he knows... he has misunderstood everything.

He will never be Thor’s equal. It is simply not possible. He was a fool ever to try.

And he will not compound that foolishness now by clinging to it, now that he knows. So when Thor looks at him oddly and asks the same question again, Loki gives a shrug.

"I did admit I was jealous already, before Father told us his decision. But it’s alright,” Loki insists. "I’m sorry for how I was acting anyway.”

Thor heaves a sigh of visible relief, as if a few words of apology were all he’d been waiting for, and Loki abruptly hates himself—the man he was all these years, the one who never grasped that he had far more than he truly deserved. The child who wanted what his sibling had and blamed him for the difference, no matter that he was fortunate to get anything at all.

"I am sorry as well, for avoiding you,” Thor says. "Forgive me?”

Loki nods and Thor, ever demonstrative, pulls him into an embrace. Loki sinks into it, clinging to his brother.

He breathes his scent, drinks in his warmth, feels the strength of the broad back under his hands. They are of a height, but Thor outclasses him in every detail—Loki always knew that, but before today it would have only maddened him. Now he feels dizzy, and more so when he realizes that Thor is kissing softly at his neck. He almost can’t breathe as he slides his hands up into Thor’s hair to try to guide their mouths together.

He wants, desperately, and he thinks it is like when he was young—when he lusted over Thor without knowing what precisely he was dreaming of—because he craves things he cannot name or identify, but he is certain that Thor is the only one who can provide them. He hears whimpering, and he knows, shame hot and heavy in his belly, that he is the one uttering the sound. He grinds his pelvis against his brother’s, hoping that Thor will feel his need and know what to do with it, because he is no longer sure he does. He kisses wetly, sucks his brother’s tongue into his mouth.

Then, it seems his wish is answered, for Thor is pushing him back toward the bed, unfastening Loki’s belt along the way and for the first time in years Loki feels oddly exposed when Thor peels his trousers down almost to his knees before shoving him backward. The feeling stays even when Thor’s lips close around the head of his cock, but he doesn’t care. All he can do is squirm, crying out and tightening his fists in his brother’s soft hair as he is swallowed whole, Thor’s big hand cupped around his balls. He doesn’t deserve this. He never did. And Thor is giving it to him anyway.

It is over alarmingly fast.  

Loki’s eyes widen in wonder as Thor clambers up beside him, loosening his own garments on the way and bringing out his erection, working it at a furious pace with one hand as he pulls Loki into another kiss—the taste of Loki’s semen on his lips—with the other. Soon his seed is splattered across Loki’s thigh and Thor is panting against his shoulder, the scents of sex and sweat engulfing them.

"Are you truly alright?” Thor whispers hoarsely after he’s caught his breath. "You don’t hate me, now that… now that it’s decided?”

"No,” Loki answers, shaking his head, almost a shudder. "I don’t hate you.”

*

Chapter Text

It takes Loki some time to understand how things are now. In a way, nothing has really changed. There is still a part of him that is a child chasing after his elder brother and wishing he could ever measure up. There is still a part of him—a large part—that is simply in awe of Thor, that wants to be near him constantly. And sometimes he still sees that elder brother as he was then, as well. The spoiled prince who got everything he wanted and thought that was the natural order of the world.

It’s all still true. Thor was spoiled—is arrogant and brash and vain. The difference now is that Loki doesn’t mind. It is right that Thor should have everything he wants. And Loki tries to give it. But there he finds himself struggling against himself.

Thor likes that Loki always trailed after him when they were boys. Thor likes when Loki obeys him. He likes when Loki knows his place. That was the only thing that had ever made it fun to resist doing so—resisting giving Thor what he wanted. So Loki, if he wants any right to Thor’s brotherhood, should give in now that he understands.

Yet he can’t. He tries, and it aches. He has seen at last his own unworthiness, and his pride should have been obliterated with his illusions, but it seems instead to be all he has.

Days pass and Loki picks no fights, but neither does he follow at Thor’s side. No, he keeps a little distance between them, so that he does not feel so utterly pathetic when he does wind up following his brother everywhere anyway. He watches Thor spar, declining to participate with a wave of his hand and a shrug, but he is unable to tear his eyes away from the sight of his brother’s power, indescribable longings washing through him at what he sees.

At night Loki lies abed, alone, mind wandering, until he remembers staring at bruises in the mirror. Remembers touching them in vicious pleasure. And he knows what must happen now.

He is no longer dreaming of something he cannot name.

*

Thor stares at him when he asks for it, as if he has never heard anything more worrisome come from Loki’s tongue, and Loki could almost laugh at that.

But he has to be convincing—Thor is a far better person than Loki is; he will not stoop to fulfilling Loki’s twisted desires unless Loki can craft his appeal well—so he only smiles instead. "We’ve done worse to each other before, brother.”

Still Thor frowns. "Yes, we’ve fought… but what you’re asking is not the same. I won’t beat you.”

Loki heaves a sigh. "It’s not like I'm asking you to break my bones. You needn’t even hit me, really—slap me, if that would suit you better, or take a belt to my hide. Whatever your preference.” It’s difficult to keep the same tone he would once have used in such an argument—the haughtiness, the maddening rationality—when all he wants to do is beg, but that would surely get him nowhere.

He is getting nowhere anyway.

"Why?” Thor asks, almost pleading.

"Because I want to try it. I just want to see if I like it as much as I think I might. I promise I won’t let you hurt me more than I want,” Loki says, and he is actually sincere. Though he wants Thor to hurt him just as much as he deserves, and it would be hard to hurt him more than that. "It will be fine, brother.”

When Thor still hesitates—looking at him as if this might be a trick, or as if Loki has gone mad—Loki brings out the biggest bargaining chip he has, a promise they’d both long since outgrown once they’d learned how perilous it might become.

"I’ll do anything you want in return,” he vows, voice thin and young-sounding in his own ears, and he watches Thor’s eyes. But he knows he has won, because there are things Thor wants. Things Loki has taken pleasure in withholding from him, just to be difficult—the obedience he thought was his due as the elder of them is likely peak among them. Loki will give it now, and anything else Thor chooses.  

The first time Thor strikes him, an open-handed slap across the face, it feels like he’s been struck by lightning. White light and a shock of pain, and he gasps. He had stripped to the waist in preparation and knelt on the floor, but maybe some part of him had thought Thor would hold back. That he wouldn’t truly be able to bring himself to hit his little brother like this. Clearly that part was wrong. Thor slaps him again, then again, one cheek and the other, leaving hot handprints behind, and Loki moans.

He deserves this. He knows he does—so many years of believing that he could be Thor’s equal, that he was anything more than a lowly creature on its belly in the dirt in comparison, wicked and wretched and loathsome against Thor’s goodness. A liar where Thor has always been true. Cruel where Thor has always been kind.

The evidence of that comes in Thor’s pause after a half dozen harsh slaps, one hesitant hand in Loki’s hair where he had been holding him still for the blows. Loki can feel his worry. Some part of Loki is still a child, forever shocked by his brother’s sudden turn to gentleness when Loki claimed injury in their games, watching Thor kneel down beside him, sun shining on his golden hair, to kiss the hurt away.

"Do you want me to go on? Is this what you desired” Thor asks, sounding uncertain, his thumb stroking soft against Loki’s hairline. So tender, so gentle.

But Loki does not deserve gentleness, and the ache in his chest is mingled with need, with lust, with the pleasure of the lingering sting. He babbles out a demand for more, and Thor gives it to him.

Thor keeps going, growing bolder at Loki’s whimpers and moans, eventually curling his hand into a fist, and Loki feels like he’s been hit with that damned hammer for how the blow knocks him back. There is blood flowing down from his nose, over his lip, the taste coppery on his tongue… and he is almost too aroused to think. He is sure his eyes are dazed—he feels he cannot focus, and he buys a moment, holding up a hand for Thor to wait while he wipes away the blood with the back of his other hand.

Thor is watching him, though, looming over him, and Loki is suddenly aware that he is on his knees, as if groveling before his mighty brother. And he should be.

Loki begs.

"Please, brother. Let me have you now.” His bloodied hand strays down to the demanding throb of his erection still trapped within his clothes, and he rubs it, because he can’t stop himself. Because he wants Thor so badly it hurts. "Please… I need… I’ll give you anything you want if you’ll let me…”

Thor is still watching him, and there is that same look from when he first agreed to any of this. He looks almost fascinated. Then he nods.

Loki trips over himself removing the last of his clothes, he almost drops the jar of slick when he is knelt on the bed with two fingers covered in the stuff (inwardly he groans and curses himself and sighs at his own ineptitude), and by the time they’re both ready he’s almost mad with need. He’s poised just about to push forward when Thor stops him.

"Wait,” he says.

Loki’s breath catches but he obeys.

"What is all this about?” Thor asks, and at the same time he’s lifted his hands to stroke Loki’s face. Caressing the bruises—perhaps trying to soothe them, Loki’s not sure. And honestly, he doesn’t care.

"Now?” he asks, with an impatient noise, to which Thor grins, triumphant.

"Yes, of course. What better time to get the truth from you?”

Loki’s stomach flips. The last bit of his pride simply will not let the truth past his lips, so if Thor is determined to get it, Loki may be waiting a long time. "It’s just something I wanted—does it really matter?” he whines. "Please, Thor…”

But Thor is kind and merciful; after Loki has squirmed and twitched and shuddered above him for a full minute without saying anything more, he huffs a breath and his hips roll in a welcoming motion that Loki takes to mean he can continue, so he does.

It feels unfathomably good once he’s sunk all the way in, and his heart aches with each stroke. He knows now the gulf between them. He sees himself the whole of their lives, selfish and prideful and perverse, and Thor so far above him. And he is no better now. Knowing his inadequacy has not changed it. He still wants things he knows he does not deserve, and here he is, finding a way to take them.

He loathes himself for it. Loathes himself even more when it doesn’t stop him from folding his body over his brother’s and trying to put the thought from his mind, focusing on fucking him as well as he can. Lavishing worship on Thor’s chest, licking at his collarbone, tracing his fingernails lightly along his sides. He gauges his success and his worth by the sounds Thor makes in response to each action.

When Thor wants to kiss him before he comes, Loki complies, lips soft and pliant as Thor wrenches him close, but that makes the ache deepen. Thor is still treating him like a lover, and Loki almost cannot stand it.

They rest together after, and Loki reminds himself that he’s doing this for Thor; if Thor chooses to nuzzle and caress him, that has more to do with Thor’s desires than Loki’s value, and he should not dare complain.

*

Chapter Text

Odin does not make any immediate public announcement of his decision, for reasons he chooses to keep to himself. If Loki had not realized the truth, such a thing might have given him false hope that the decision might still change.

He’s glad he knows better now. He’s also glad he need not yet face the inevitable celebrations. It is at least a little while longer before it is known to everyone. That gives him time to adjust, time to prepare.

Meanwhile Odin summons him again—alone this time—and Loki has to fight for control of himself as he waits to hear what the Allfather will tell him. It turns out that the reason he has been called is so that his father can be sure he knows what his place will be when Thor is king.

"Thor will need your help; he will need someone to trust, and he will also be relying on your diplomatic skill, I'm sure,” Odin says, regarding him with a wry smile, and Loki thinks he’s meant to take comfort from this. He is not sure he does, but he nods anyway and assures his father that he understands.

At the end of their conversation Odin clasps a hand to Loki’s shoulder and says he is proud of his younger son. That he values him. Loki thinks this is unnecessarily cruel, under the circumstances, such a blatant untruth that Odin must know how it will sting, but he does his best to keep the hurt from his expression and only crumbles a little bit when he is out of his father’s sight.

He finds himself avoiding his mother for a while afterward, also, though he does not immediately realize why: part of him is still a child, and he fears that she might see through him again, and he knows he could not bear that now.

Being in Thor’s company, on the other hand, becomes easier. Thor has not told his friends—he knows well enough that their skill at keeping secrets is limited, especially when alcohol is involved as it surely soon would be—so as far as they know, nothing has changed, and the brothers both pretend so around them. But even if Loki tries to recall how to wield the sharp edge of his tongue as he once did, it is not true in the least to say that things are the same.

Thor, reassured by his new certainty, need not prove himself, and Loki now knows better than to try. In truth they get along better than they have in years. Loki lets himself be drawn to his brother as he always was but always resisted; yet he feels relief now just to be allowed in Thor’s circle, and he would feel at home in the shadows if that were the only space left for him, but Thor makes a point to keep a place for Loki beside him.

Loki is glad of this (even if he supposes it is because Thor has never liked secrecy and he needs to be closest to the one other who knows). They find plenty of opportunities to be alone together as time goes on.

During one of the first such opportunities, Thor plays his trick again, only this time he stops them before either grows too desperate to stand the delay. Thor pins him and demands his honesty: he pushes back on his elbows, threads his hands in Loki’s hair, peering at him in a tender way that makes Loki’s heart hurt.

"Are you sure this is alright?”

Loki looks back at his brother as if he’s gone mad, suppresses a laugh as he squirms, naked skin against naked skin. Blood kin, brothers, two boys who shared the same womb, the same nursery, and now the same bed. "It’s a little late to wonder that, don’t you think?”

"No, I mean… I keep expecting you to be upset with me for being the one chosen. I’m grateful that you’re not, but I keep thinking you must be and are keeping it from me… perhaps because I would be upset if our places were reversed. Are you? Please, Loki. I would rather know now if it’s true.”

Thor’s eyes are more anxious than Loki has ever seen them, and Loki can’t force out a sound over the loathing he suddenly feels for his past self, the one who made Thor so fearful of his reaction. The man who took such great pleasure in retaliating against Thor for his goodness, the boy who liked to see his brother punished, out of envy, out of anger, out of resentment—Loki feels sure it must have been someone else. It cannot have been him. Except it was. The worry in Thor’s eyes now is his fault entirely.

He can only shake his head. But his brother seems unconvinced, gazing down at him, mouth pressed into a tense line and brow knitted.

"But if you’re not upset, then why do we end up like this?” Thor goes on. "The things you’ve been asking for…”

"Don’t you like them?” Loki asks, managing to grin.

Thor blushes and nods. "I do! But I don’t understand why things have changed. You never before wanted… you must tell me, Loki. Tell me the truth.”

Thor doesn’t even need to add the threat at the end. The truth, or else. Or else Thor might just stop. Might refuse him, too uneasy with the uncertainty to continue. Or might keep demanding until Loki gives in and tells him.

Loki’s mind races until words come.

"You’re right. Things have changed,” he admits, "And that is exactly why I’ve been asking for these things. You’re going to be my king, brother, and I just want to know now, before it’s done, what that will feel like. Don’t you?”

Loki isn’t sure whether it is really true. It seems right, in a way. Some other Loki, some better one, might have said that. And as long as Thor accepts it as an answer, that is all that matters.

Thor nods, a little hesitant. "And that’s why you wish me to hit you?”

Loki shrugs. "No… no, that part is just because I like it. I have always enjoyed strange things, haven’t I?”

Then Thor seems all at once to become aware again that he has his brother pinned naked beneath him. He rubs his thumb against Loki’s cheekbone, tugs on his hair.

"So you want to know how it will feel. What if I told you to call me your king…?”

"I would,” Loki answers instantly.

And that, it seems, is all it takes for the idea to take root, for Thor to eagerly grab hold of the reins Loki hands him; they please him, as Loki had suspected.

And Loki should also have known how well Thor would take to having that sort of command, proving far more creative than Loki would once have given him credit for.

Over the days that follow he takes even more opportunities to be alone with Loki, to try out all the things he can do. He is demanding, capricious, and Loki obeys as best he can at every step, while his chest aches and his flesh burns at the chance to do as his brother desires, to win his approval. He has lost the ability to tease apart pleasure from pain. He only knows that he wants it, whatever it is.

That is how, a few weeks later, Loki ends up on his back, a strip of leather tied tight around the base of his prick while Thor rides him. Thor had made him undress them both—himself quickly and efficiently, merely becoming naked as fast as possible for his brother’s gratification, and Thor with all the reverence he is due as the future king of Asgard.

Thor makes sure he remembers that. He leans over, Loki’s cock still buried within him, so that he can tell Loki his plans, grinning happily. "Someday I'll put you on my throne like this,” he muses, “so that I can sit on my favorite seat as I rule.”

Loki groans and writhes as he imagines it—Thor would do such a thing, to torment him and amuse himself. He would probably expect Loki to bespell them so that the gathered courtiers would notice nothing amiss, too. It is an enticing fantasy, and Loki shivers as he tries to imagine Thor’s weight in his lap, shifting atop him too little to really stimulate but too much to let him subside or think of anything else, and his own growing desperation and humiliation before the unseeing crowd.

It is also the only way that Loki will ever be placed upon the throne, but Thor is too kind to mention that.

Loki whimpers now as Thor sits back, satisfied at the effect he’s had, and begins to move again, and all Loki can do is simply take it—he feels like a beast, half mindless, belly up and throat bared to show his submission, his sweat-damp body jolted with each motion—and his bound cock, oh, that is beginning to throb. He can feel his pulse within it. But he is entirely under his brother’s power, and Thor is nowhere near ready to release him.

Loki shuts his eyes, tongue teasing at the new split in his lip that Thor put there before they began, and tries not to sob.

And they have been doing this enough lately, Thor has taken to finding his own body’s limits, as well as Loki’s. Loki stares up at him, helpless, while he works himself to a loud, clenching orgasm. And then, with spattered semen dripping down Loki’s neck and cooling on his chest, he tells Loki that he thinks he can manage more than once.

"And you want to oblige your king, don’t you, brother?” he smiles and reaches back to give Loki’s balls a little squeeze, just hard enough to make him gasp and wince. His answering nod is frantic.

Watching Thor bring himself to the edge for a second time is sheer torture; Thor knows exactly what he wants and simply takes, moaning and spearing himself energetically on Loki’s slick length, the strength of his thighs letting him lift himself up over and over, slamming back down almost hard enough to bruise. And he looks so regal as he does it—the light over his shoulder casting shadows through his mussed hair and limning him in flickering gold—that Loki wants nothing more than to give him everything. He feels he should be sobbing in gratitude that Thor chooses to take this from him. Perhaps he is. Perhaps he does so. He would hardly be aware of it if his face were wet.

After some time Thor’s moans grow faster, louder, and before Loki knows what he’s doing Thor has reached back and undone the leather. There’s a space of a heartbeat before Loki’s poor, swollen cock realizes what’s happened and then he’s thrashing, heels skittering at the edge of the bed. It feels like everything is pouring out of him at once—come in hot, wrenching pulses, breath, tears—and then the world whites out.

The next he’s aware, he’s limp and drenched in sweat and his brother’s semen all up and down his chest, and Thor is draped comfortably beside him, thumbing away the wetness from his eyelids. When Loki blinks in confusion Thor leans closer to kiss his face, warm breath and soft lips against a fading bruise on his cheek.

"You are so good to me,” Thor says, gazing upon him fondly before tugging him closer. They are both a mess, but if Thor doesn’t care then Loki can’t either. Loki belongs to him. He is his brother’s plaything, his brother’s obedient slave, wretched and undeserving and with an ache inside him that will not go away. He is marked and subdued and hopelessly in love with Thor. He has always been. Only now he’s ceased his stubborn, foolish denial.

He says so, telling Thor how much he loves him, and Thor echoes the words back. It makes Loki ache, wondering if he truly does or if he just thinks he must, because they are brothers and therefore it must be love he feels. It makes Loki’s head hurt to wonder.

But just at the moment he is exhausted, so he sets the thought aside and falls asleep in his brother’s bed, in his brother’s arms.

*

Chapter Text

Unfortunately, he cannot spend the rest of his days in Thor’s bed. For the most part, he has to get back to his life.

When he tries, he feels he is walking in his own shadow, every corner of Asgard overlaid with uncomfortable memories of his own past idiocy. Every stone of every walkway is a place he once trod while he still thought far too highly of himself, when he still thought himself Thor’s equal. Now inside he cringes with every step, hardly daring to wonder what others see when they look at him.

He cannot put off speaking to his mother forever either. After a few more days he tells himself to stop being a child, and he seeks her out in her garden under the midday sun.

He is relieved to find out that he is somewhat less transparent than he once was, as she pats the grassy ground beside her and bids him sit and tell her how he has been faring.

"I’ve seen little of you since your father told you his decision,” she says, sounding neither upset nor particularly worried.

Loki tries to respond alike. "I needed some time. It doesn’t matter.”

A breeze ruffles Frigga’s fair hair as she gazes back at him, and she sets down the book she had been reading. "You’re too good at that,” she says, pursing her lips. "But I think it does matter. You know your father’s choice does not reflect poorly on you, don’t you?”

Loki makes himself nod, but he is barely aware of the brightness of the sun or the warmth of the day. He barely feels it when she reaches over to take his hand between both of hers.

"I remember when you were small. You always tried so hard to prove yourself whenever your brother shone, and I never could make you believe there was no need.”

"I never did listen, did I?” Loki hears himself say. His voice feels hollow in his throat and brittle as a fallen leaf.

She gives a soft laugh. "Well. You’re older and wiser now, so I'm sure you’ll acknowledge that your mother is speaking sense to you. You need not prove yourself this time, and you are loved just as much as your brother is. Perhaps you will even find there are advantages to not being weighted down with the responsibilities of the throne.”

"You may be right.”

Loki somehow manages to make her believe in his answering smile, and he somehow manages to remain there, talking of nothing so important, for nearly an hour. But his thoughts are reshaping themselves in his head once again; he thought he had finally understood the entirety of the truth as he stood before the Allfather but he finds now there was yet more that he had not grasped.

It seems almost funny, now, that what he feared before was that his mother would see through him when it is instead his own sudden understanding that shears through him like a scythe each time she gazes his way, with each gentle word from her lips.

He feels sick at the realization: he was the only one who had never known.

To everyone else it had always been obvious. And that means his mother must have always known as well. She must have always seen it perfectly clear, gently attempting to guide him when he struggled, when he tried to rebel. She has surely always known how hopeless his struggles were.

The humiliation of it is almost overwhelming.

He manages to endure long enough to make his excuses to her before retreating, dizzy and weak inside, when it becomes too much. He treads through the rest of the day barely managing never to stumble, the edges of everything going hazy around him in time with his heartbeat.

That night, when Loki closes himself away in his own chambers, he strips off his clothes automatically, climbs under the covers without thought. And he finds himself crying like a child. He curls on his side, tucks a pillow into his arms and sobs.

He was allowed to hope for so long. Even his mother watched him make a fool of himself for years without telling him. Or else what he said is true and she tried to make him see and he simply never listened. He tries to think back, tries to remember whether she did or not, but it is too painful, the shame too great, it all blurs together, impenetrable. He remembers being small and being furious with her because she did not understand how it hurt him to never be the one favored, because she never truly took his side but only tried to douse his anger—but now he cannot be angry, because it was all his own fault, his fault for being. And now, because he could never measure up and would not accept it, would not be told otherwise, he must live with the knowledge that everyone he knows saw him engaged in that pathetic, futile struggle. Even those he loves most will never look at him without seeing it.

He snuffles against the pillow until a corner of it is nearly soaked through, until his head hurts and his throat feels ragged, before he finally manages to cry himself to sleep.

When he wakes he feels a good deal less wretched, but the realization sticks to him.

And he has promised this day to his brother, which would be better if it were not for what he knows the day will hold. He slips down to the kitchens hoping to catch Thor at breakfast. When that fails, he hurries out toward the stables, wondering if it is possible for him to be so lucky as to make it there before Thor’s friends arrive, to have at least a moment alone with him.

Of course, it isn’t. They are all already there, making an excited racket as they ready their mounts for the day’s ride. After only this short while they have convinced Thor that they are being neglected as companions; Thor had told Loki of their plans with a shrug two days ago, making him agree to come along. Loki had not argued.

But now he stands in the doorway unnoticed, stomach clenching.

They are not his friends. He never thought they were, but—before—he had not particularly cared. It had not mattered if Sif still hated him for age-old pranks, if the others only tolerated him; he was still far above them. Or so he had believed.

Even now he should not care; they may not like him, but the feeling is mutual, so it should not matter. But it does. Now he knows their disdain for him for what it truly is, and he has no defense against the cringing shudder that rushes through him.

All he can do is try not to meet any of their eyes as he quietly slips in among them to ready his own mount, determined not to let his discomfort show, determined not to give them any more reason to demean him. Childhood memories of jealousy and stubbornness and games that were not truly games—but he is not a child anymore.

The same thing draws him along now as did then. He nods to the others as they start off and then does his best to ignore them in favor of keeping up with his brother, fading into his shadow, and he wonders that he ever chafed at being stuck within it. There is now nowhere he would prefer to be.

The strategy nearly works.

"It has just occurred to me that our trickster hasn’t said a word this whole time,” Volstagg booms after they have left the city’s boundaries and ridden far into the fields, nearly to the edge of the forest that is their aim. He nudges his mount closer to Fandral, feigning to whisper humorously into his ear. "I’m not sure what that portends, but I have a feeling we all ought to be worried.”

A dozen sharp replies come to Loki’s tongue, and the humiliation he endures just being in their presence, forever the burden they have had to suffer if they wish to enjoy Thor’s friendship, is enough to make him want to loose them.

But all he does is cast a glance at the two over his shoulder, as expressionless as he can manage. "Fortunately your skill at portents leaves much to be desired.”

He pretends he does not feel their gaze upon his back as he spurs his horse forward.

When the day ends, Loki finds himself exhausted, far more than their little journey should account for, and he is glad that it ends at a waypoint inn instead of a camp in the wilds, for the sake of comfort.

Down in the common room, he listens idly to the chatter as they all eat and drink, but only one voice is of any real interest to him. He finds himself using his magic to refill his brother’s tankard when it grows empty rather than waiting for the servants to make their rounds, and he feels as if his belly is full of feathers when Thor smiles at him in thanks.

Loki realizes he would endure this day a thousand times over just for that. More wryly, he thinks that this may just happen, for Thor does truly seem happy, at ease, cares forgotten.

They share a room that night, the two of them, as they usually have done, but Loki has rarely been gladder to shut the door behind them, closing out the world, letting out a sigh.

They cannot do much—cannot risk the noise—but Thor allows Loki to undress them both, down to their smallclothes, and lets Loki lie with him in his bed for a while before inevitably returning to his own, in case they are somehow seen in the morning.

Thor lies on his back at a full stretch, and Loki curls with his face upon his brother’s stomach, an arm wrapped around his waist. Thor’s hand strokes through his hair.

"You were quiet today, brother,” Thor whispers, after they have doused the light.

"I didn’t have much to say. It’s… strange, now.”

He hears the slight rustle of Thor’s nod. "I know. I want to tell them. They are my dearest friends; I'm not used to keeping secrets from them.”

There is frustration in Thor’s voice, frustration he kept well hidden hours before as he laughed and talked with them, and Loki makes no answer, staring into the dim shadows of the unfamiliar space, the day’s humiliation rising like echoes. Blinking when his eyes begin to sting. Thor will be happier once the decision is publicly announced and yet Loki dreads it, has hoped it will be a long way away, and guilt wells up in him for that hope.

He barely hears the question Thor asks him next but pieces it together enough to answer.

"No,” he murmurs, brow knitted. "No, Father only means to give us both time to adjust to the idea before everyone knows. That’s all. He would not have told us if he weren’t certain.”

Thor curls Loki’s hair around his fingers just behind his ear. Huffs a dubious sigh.

The quiet stretches in the dark room as Loki realizes that Thor actually does doubt. No matter how impossible it seems, because Thor had to have known, same as their father and mother and all Thor’s friends and likely everyone who had ever met the two of them. He had to have known how much lesser Loki was than him.

"Didn’t you know it would be you?” Loki asks, lips moving just above the soft skin of Thor’s belly.

"No, I didn’t. I only hoped,” Thor admits, a little sheepish, fingers still stroking Loki’s hair.

Loki’s heart catches like a fish on a hook. He knows Thor isn’t lying; he knows Thor’s honesty and adores it as only a liar could. And the statement shocks him to the core.

If Thor truly had not known… then Thor had never been part of his humiliation. Had never seen his struggles as the foolishness they were. Thor had seen him as a worthy rival for that prize, and somehow in Thor this was not blindness or stupidity but grace. Only Thor, only someone so purely good could ever have…

"Did you know?” Thor asks in reply, voice a quiet, uncertain hum in the dark.

Loki answers the same with the smallest shake of his head.

In the following silence, Loki listens to the soft gurgling of his brother’s innards, and the sound comforts the ache in his own guts around the hollow that has formed there and never dissipates. It is a sweet sound. A reminder that they are one flesh, and perhaps they belong together.

Thor was the only one who had ever believed he could be worthy.

Some time later, in the darkness, Loki slips his hand beneath thin fabric and touches until his brother has roused, and then pushes the fabric down and mouths teasingly against the velvety head until the hand still tangled in his hair begins to move him. They both stay as quiet as they can, nothing more than choked gasps and heavy breaths against the fear of discovery, but Loki wants this. Needs this.

Thor is the only one who has ever done more than tolerate him, and for years Loki repaid him with resentment, with arguments, goading him into anger as if that were a victory over him.

And Thor is now the only one with whom this pathetic shame is made bearable. In Thor’s presence it is replaced with something else, with a thrumming devotion that makes him want to lie down and be trod upon, an ache that only desires more of itself, a deep and invisible bruise over his heart that wants to see itself darkening in his flesh.  

When Thor is close, panting quickly and quietly, hips thrusting in smooth motions, his hand holds Loki’s head in place so that he can fuck his throat, and Loki cannot breathe around the thick, throbbing heat within his mouth, and he doesn’t care. When Thor shoves deep and holds with a faint whimper as his cock pulses and spills, Loki swallows heavily and savors the feel of it against his tongue and tightens his own hold on Thor’s hips, not wanting to let go. He feels no need to breathe ever again. He wants to stay here, like this, forever. But Thor’s slight sensitive hiss forces him to pull back, guilty.

Afterward, though, he is permitted to nuzzle sticky, damp, sleepy skin until it is past time to return to the other bed. Thor catches his hand before he can slip away.

"Sleep well, brother,” Thor whispers.

Loki grasps the hand and brings it to his face, nuzzling against Thor’s palm, feeling Thor’s fingers curl lightly against his eyelids, down his cheek. "Sleep well, my king.”

*

Chapter Text

Days pass, weeks pass, and Loki endures.

Slowly, it dawns on him how pathetic he is being. How he has finally understood his own inadequacy, and he has done nothing to change it.

Really all he has done is wallow, pitying himself and wandering in the wreckage of his life with a dumbfounded expression, weeping far too often. Flagellating himself because he’d been too stupid to see, and even then he’d failed to do anything useful with that misery.

This is a new realization, and one that makes him grit his teeth with disgust at his own behavior and resolve that it will not be allowed to continue. He resolves that it will not go on.

He digs his fingernails into his arms as he ponders how to change it. What he ought to do instead. What he was meant to be that would give him any purpose. There must be a purpose.

“You will be his advisor, Loki,” he hears in echoes in his head. “He will have great need of you.”

When he first heard it, Loki—still in shock, still reeling from the news—had misunderstood this, thought it a feeble consolation to one undeserving of it. Now he sees what the Allfather was truly telling him.

If Odin always meant for Thor to be king, if Odin always saw Thor’s greatness and Loki’s inadequacy, and still he had raised them together… surely there had been some purpose. And it was for Loki to be his brother’s servant. One devoted to him as no one else could ever be, blood kin, bound to him by love and adoration. One willing to endure any sacrifice for him.

That was the reason he had been allowed to flounder and struggle and fight for so long without anyone telling him, because at least it was an attempt to gain in skill, albeit for all the wrong reasons. That was why his study of magic was permitted, despite the sneers it earned him.

As it is, at this sudden awareness, Loki feels woefully ill prepared for their lives to come.

So he goes to his father and stands before him, eyes low, and asks through the tightness in his throat what he might do to improve himself, to be a better aide whenever Thor is king.

Odin responds by watching him in silence for a moment, an odd look on his face.

“Your diligence is commendable, Loki, but not, I think, entirely necessary. He will most need you as his trusted advisor and confidant, and there is not any way to better prepare yourself for that role than the years you have already spent in each other’s company.”

Loki listens in confusion and thanks the Allfather for this guidance, but inside he feels lost, and he hurries through the hallways disheartened, footsteps echoing. His attempt to make use of himself—dismissed as futile.

Or perhaps he was merely meant to work it out for himself what he is to do.

When he comes to that conclusion, he turns down a different hallway, changing his route to tread toward the healing rooms.

Once he scoffed at the idea of studying anything more than basic field healing as unsuited to his talents, his station. But what use will all his years of training in sorcery be if he cannot heal Thor if he is ever gravely wounded in battle? How will it be if Loki is there but unable to do anything of use? So he goes to stand before Eir, eyes low after swallowing his pride—she, as much as anyone in the palace, was certainly aware of his stupidity—and begs her for lessons. All the learning he once shunned. All the knowledge he once shrugged aside. She looks him over and he can feel her assessing his sincerity, the likelihood that he will treat her time with respect rather than wasting it in some unexpected mischief. He tries not to fidget but simply waits until at last she gives him a curt nod.

She allows him to shadow her for days, whenever he has no other duties to attend to, and he attempts to drill as much learning into his head as he can. Sometimes he catches Eir’s eyes on him with a questioning look, almost suspicious, but she never voices her doubt, and he is grateful.

He does much the same with every other skill he can think of that he has neglected. Everything else that he ever might need to serve his purpose for his brother.

Between his duties as the younger prince and these studies he has set himself to, many of his hours are filled. And the rest… the rest are Thor’s. Where once Loki would have pursued his own interests, often enough turning up his nose at whatever Thor had planned for himself, now he refuses his brother nothing.

In the evenings he tags along with Thor and his friends when they go to drink and boast in taverns, and he is a quiet, unobtrusive presence there, doing whatever he can, whatever Thor requires.

Earlier in the daylight hours he trains with him, spars down in the practice yard, berating himself silently when he tires long before Thor does, pushes himself, knowing that this too is something he has neglected. He works, the sweat pouring down his back as they push through endless drills until their minds and bodies are in perfect sync—it feels somehow purifying. The inevitable bashes and bruises—he embraces them as well, enlivened by the pain. He wants to have a place at Thor’s side. 

When he attunes himself to his brother in that effort, he can feel Thor’s excitement, his anticipation of the future: Thor has all he needs, the promise of the throne, and his loyal brother, and he also has the hammer.

That is not to be forgotten.

The day it happens, just past dusk, they have been training together in this way for some time, and Thor has been slowly learning more of what he can do with Mjolnir. He can shake the ground with a blow, knocking enemies from their feet. He can loft himself into the air with it, practically flying as it spins; he can fly in truth by hurling it and holding tight to its leather strap. But there is more to it than that.

In Thor’s hands, the great weapon becomes far more than a heavy weight of mystery and legend waiting on a pedestal. The weapon is made for him. It belongs to him and rejoices with him. It calls to the godliness in him and is answered. There is a deadly light in his eyes when he wields it, and Loki recognizes that Thor is innately learning its magic. Unstructured, untutored, with no notion of how he does it, yet it takes him little time to exceed everything Loki has managed in centuries of study. Loki’s sorcery feels weak and pretentious in comparison, and he looks upon his brother and the silvery blur of destruction in his hand with a wrenching awe.

The first time Thor calls down the lightning, the bright bolt cutting down from the deep azure sky, Loki stares in shock.

The very air crackles and sparks, every hair on Loki’s body stands on end. The target Thor had been battering lies in obliterated pieces when the blinding light fades. The skies always turned in answer to Thor’s moods and Thor’s whims, but this is something else entirely, and everyone in the training yard that day stops and falls silent and watches. But Thor pauses only a moment before he grins and laughs and throws himself back into the mock battle.

The celebration that evening is raucous and ale-drenched and lasts late into the night. Everyone seems to wish to tell their tale of having seen it, of having been there.

Even Loki, eventually, is asked to speak.

"It’s all been said already,” he demurs, gesturing around the vast table.

"But you were nearest,” Sif reminds him with a sharp grin. And it’s not that at all which causes him to take a breath and close his eyes for just a moment to gather his words. It’s the hand on the small of his back, warm and welcome, thumb moving slightly.

Loki summons up poetry, short bursts of syllables that mimic that moment, strung together and pattering with the rain that came from the sky after, dark and heavy as the clouds that formed above, stark white as the lightning itself. He speaks of the hammer striking as ground met sky, he speaks of the hand that gripped the haft—and he does not speak of the envy that filled him then, or his own surprise to find he did not want to wield the weapon but to be it. The jealousy that burst in his breast, bright and electric, to see Thor entangled with another, to see Thor swelling before his eyes into something even greater, a halo of gold around his head, alighting into the air filled with joy and battle-hunger and leaving Loki behind upon the dull mud of the world.

He hides that feeling beneath his tongue, though, and does not weave his words with it. Only with his wonder, with a kinsman’s pride. With the sheer awe and beauty of what he saw.

Afterward hands thump on the table in applause and Loki looks down and gulps his wine to wet the desert of his throat, a sudden lightheaded inebriation spreading in his core.

Thor’s arm goes around him, brotherly affection, enthusiastic and steadying, and he sinks against it.

That is only the beginning, though. In the days that follow, Thor’s skill with the great hammer grows, and Loki is there to witness every moment. He is there as Thor summons a storm of swirling winds and freezing rain, and he feels the droplets pouring down his face and chilling his armor against his skin, and he remembers greed, craving the weapon for himself, wanting to be the one to win it at last, a selfish desperation to keep it from Thor’s hand. But now he knows, sees why it could never be. Thor and Mjolnir together are fearsome and magnificent beyond anything that has ever before existed. The sight makes him shiver.

It also makes him…

"What?” Thor asks, perplexed at Loki’s fixed gaze, as they lounge that night in Thor’s chambers.

They had just spent nearly an hour in the baths, soaking the cold away after the drenching rain. They had spent it playful, Thor pinning Loki against the side of the pool, straddling his thighs and slipping against him under the steaming water, kissing him and stroking wet hands through wet hair, but Loki had been distracted, his mind wandering distant until each time Thor dragged him back, though he could not have said why.

Thor has to repeat himself before Loki realizes he has done so again, lost himself in thoughts he cannot recall, all the while staring at Mjolnir where Thor has set it.

"What has you so pensive, brother?”

"Your lightning,” Loki says, before he realizes what he means to say. "What does it feel like?”

Thor frowns. "What do you mean? To wield it?”

Loki isn’t sure what he means. Cannot think of an answer.

"It’s… satisfying, I guess,” Thor replies with a shrug.

Loki thinks about this for a moment. He feels he is being tugged toward something, a longing taking hold of him.

"Will you use it on me?”

Thor’s expression passes through surprise and uncertainty.

"Loki… I don’t want to truly hurt you.”

"You won’t,” Loki says, urgent. At least he thinks it’s true.

Thor gazes at him, assessing. Loki can feel the weight of his hesitation.

"I can take it,” he insists—like an echo, though it is a moment before Loki is able to place it as belonging to some long-ago punishment they had endured as children after his own misbehavior, and his voice claiming that it would not bother him, that he was not afraid. The thought makes Loki frown.

Thor pushes himself up on the bed until he can pull his brother against him, comb his fingers through the dark, damp strands of Loki’s hair, brow knitted in consideration of the request.

"And what will you do for me if I do as you ask?”

"I… I'll make it good for you,” Loki vows.

"You’ll do that anyway, though,” Thor says with the cocky grin that makes Loki want to get on his knees.

And Thor is right. He will, and he has sworn everything to Thor long ago anyway. So he has nothing left to bargain with, but now that he has asked for it, he wants it, with a desire that is growing greater by the moment.

He remembers the sight of Thor in the midst of a bright bolt, commanding it, lit with it, his body’s perfection illuminated.

Loki blinks and falters, opening and closing his mouth without saying anything.  

Thor laughs and pats him on one burning cheek and kisses the other.. "Come and see if I will grant your wish anyway.”

Loki undresses them both, after the fashion Thor likes, shucking his own light garb quickly and carelessly, keeps his eyes down as he unknots the tie of Thor’s robe, as he pushes down the soft, luxurious fabric that Thor had drawn up over his hips only a little while before, and then he waits as Thor lies back on the bed, arranging himself, spreading his legs lazily.

The way this usually happens is that Thor would torment him now. Usually Thor likes to be well stretched and well slicked before they begin, and he would order Loki to make him ready, and Loki would kneel between his thighs and drench his fingers in oil before slipping them within to work him gradually open, to make the slide tantalizingly easy when Thor finally deigns to allow Loki to climb up between his thighs and push his cock inside.

Thor likes to make him work for it—likes to see Loki hunched at his feet in growing misery, prick dribbling onto the sheets at the tight heat of Thor’s ass squeezing on his fingers, so close to what he wants but not yet allowed to have it. Thor usually makes him go on like that until he is mouthing desperately at one of Thor’s knees, muffling his moans there, almost in tears, and only then would Thor take pity on him.

But this time Thor has carried Mjolnir along with him, set it on the pillow, and as Loki positions himself between his brother’s legs he lies there with one arm stretched up toward it, his loosely curled hand inches away from its haft. His other hand is on his own chest, toying with a nipple and gazing down at Loki with amusement twinkling in his eyes.

"No one else but you, brother, would see such a thing and want to feel it himself.”

Loki ducks his head and looks away, certain he is being mocked, but—but it is probably true, so he cannot complain. He has long since given up any claim to dignity. Instead he attends to coating his fingers in glistening slick before slipping the first slowly inside Thor, sliding it back and forth, adding another.

Thor watches him, tilts his head aside. "Is this why you once were jealous of me for lifting it?”

Loki shakes his head. He doesn’t think it’s true, and it hardly matters anyway.

He twists and pumps his fingers within his brother’s body almost automatically, and bites his own lip, and his breath comes quick and shaky, and this time Thor does not make him wait too long. When Thor nudges him with his heel and urges him to come take what he wants, Loki scrambles up, trembling, and slots himself inside all in one motion.

"How do you want me to fuck you?” he manages to ask, just as Thor has trained him, after he has taken a first few careful strokes to let them both adjust.

Thor rocks his hips twice and hums. "Slow, I think.”

That isn’t the usual answer—Thor usually likes to be pounded as fast and hard as Loki can muster—but he does as Thor commands. He takes it slow and easy, pushing into the delicious heat and velvety slickness and drawing smoothly back out again. And thus he has the attention to notice when, between two languorous thrusts, Thor’s hand reaches out and wraps around the hammer’s haft. He does not use it right away, letting Loki anticipate.

Tension curls in Loki’s belly and makes his skin prickle. When he shivers, he feels soft laughter rumble through the body beneath him.

Then the hand that isn’t wrapped around the hammer haft is pressed to the center of Loki’s chest, fingers splayed, and Loki gulps, chest going tight and a hum buzzing in his ears. He is terrified. He has never been truly frightened of anything they have done before—he is not afraid of Thor’s fists—but he is terrified now, because he knows, and does not know at all, what is going to happen.

"Let me see,” Thor murmurs to himself, and he somehow stretches toward the lightning without moving, calling to it, focusing. "Let’s try just a little bit.”

Loki is too nervous even to nod—and then it happens all at once and even fear is pushed out of him to make way. Just a little bit turns out to be enough to wrench through him, from his core outward, seizing every muscle and fragile tendon along the way. He has no control over himself in the grip of it, and it is Thor’s power that is doing this to him.

It is agony, his heart beneath his brother’s hand, and he screams and comes so hard it’s almost blinding, cock throbbing and spilling painfully, in heady spasms, body twitching all over.

He suffers a moment of sickening horror before the sharp taste of lightning has faded from his tongue: it’s too soon. He’s come far too soon, and he cannot possibly stop yet before he has satisfied his brother as he vowed. But to his great surprise, his cock doesn’t soften. Thor stares up at him, pleased at this unexpected development.

He rubs his palm up and down Loki’s pale, sweaty, shivering chest, a smile tugging at his mouth. "Now, I wonder what I can do with you.”

Loki can already tell what he has in mind, and he moans and shudders, wanting it and dreading it.

Thor gives him only a few minutes to recover before pouring more of his lightning into Loki’s body and laughing when it has the same effect—sheer misery and inevitable pleasure in one thrashing, throbbing moment. He laughs when Loki has to blink and plant his hands wider on the bed to keep his balance as his vision swims, when he has to struggle to keep his rhythm as each jolt nearly ruins him.  

He wants it to. He screams his pain through clenched teeth each time, and dreams that he is being punished for ever having thought that the hammer or throne or anything could be his. Punished for all of his inadequacies, only his glorious brother having any use for him at all.

Each jolt makes Thor’s eyes glow godly from within, energy crackling across Thor’s skin and leaving him unfazed and Loki racked on its tendrils. Through agony Loki can catch glimpses of Thor in that moment, all formed of lightning and the darkness at the depths of storms, body rolling like an oncoming thunderhead as Loki spills and twitches within him. His heart under his brother’s hand hurts, empty and broken, and Loki openly sobs.

"I think you like working atop me like this,” Thor says just after he’s made Loki come for the sixth or seventh time, and Loki can only nod, throat tight.

“Tell me how much you like it.”

Loki gulps and breathlessly, breathlessly begins to babble out praise, telling Thor how magnificent he is and how good it feels to be inside him—and yelps when Thor jolts him again, teeth clacking involuntarily as his body tenses.

Thor makes him keep going until he’s come so many times that the slippery, sloppy mess of his semen gushes out around his cock with every motion. His jaw aches from clenching and his limbs feel made of rubber and the only sounds he can make are soft whimpers, and only then does Thor take pity. He brushes a sweaty clump of hair back from Loki’s eyes with a fond smile.

"Stop, Loki, stop,” he says, taking hold of his shoulder and making him still. Loki must look distressed, because Thor quickly reassures him. "Shh, you’ve had enough, you’ve pleased me. Now just be still and do as I say.”

Loki can do that. He doubts he could do much more than that, honestly—

"All I want you to do now is watch me come.”

Loki’s mouth goes dry.

Thor’s cock—stiff and red and beautiful—is wet all over with precome and probably some of Loki’s sweat, and when he wraps his hand around it he lets out a deep groan even before he begins to stroke.

Obediently, avidly, Loki watches. He has just come so many times he’s wrung utterly dry, he’s exhausted and barely able to hold himself up on his arms, and yet the rich color of the damp, textured skin at the head of Thor’s cock is the most alluring thing he’s ever seen. Muscles in Thor’s hips flex, cock pushing up into the air, and he moans a little, quietly, as his hand moves faster, twisting at the head, his big, long, graceful fingers shifting their grip to press into the vein along the bottom. Thor is expert at pleasuring himself, and Loki tries to memorize every motion, only he keeps being distracted by the size of Thor’s arms, the rise and fall of his belly with his breath and the soft golden fuzz upon it, the crinkling of his scrotum as his balls draw up toward his body. The glisten of saliva on his lip when he gasps. The pattern his semen makes as it shoots up to gather in the dip in the middle of his breast.

Thor’s ass clenches around him in the same moment—Loki’s erection has not yet gone down—and he hears Thor gasping out his name and he blinks up to see Thor’s eyes on him.

A burst of reverence and awe rushes through Loki as Thor gazes into his eyes as he comes. A glowing god trembling with pleasure, and Loki is the one here with him.

Afterward, when Thor’s got his breath back, Loki pulls gently out and waits for Thor to pat the mattress in invitation before flopping down beside him, and he lets Thor tug him close as he likes to do, lets Thor wrap an arm around him…

Only then does Loki notice the sensation of burning, when Thor’s hand falls against tender skin, and he tries—unsuccessfully—to stifle the cry of pain.

When they get themselves sorted out a minute later, Thor is kneeling over his bare torso, staring at the tracery of welt-like raised marks across his chest, like the winding roots of a tree or the spreading branches of lightning, just in the place where Thor sent the current through him. The red of it is deepening by the minute.

"Oh, oh, Loki,” Thor says, gaping at him in alarm. "Are you alright? I'm sorry, I did not know it would…”

Loki touches it with a cautious finger, tracing along one of the wider branches. "It’s fine,” he says. "It only stings a bit. I don’t mind.”

Inside he is almost giddy. Marked in his flesh. He belongs to Thor, and now he has been branded so.

"It will probably go away, I'd imagine. And it was worth it,” he adds.

Thor eyes him warily for a moment and then leans down to kiss him. "Promise me that you won’t ever let me really hurt you. I couldn’t bear that. Promise me.”

Wordlessly, Loki nods.

A good deal later he is still lying there awake, one hand against his breastbone, idly digging his fingernails into the burning red mark while Thor slumbers beside him, breaths rhythmic and calming.

Loki stares at the dark ceiling. He feels wrung out and exhausted, but nowhere near sleep. Little aches and discomforts fill him (the stickiness gone dry, the temperature in Thor’s room just a bit too cold, the sharp pain less welcome where it jags across one nipple). He feels bleak and washed bare. The land after a flood, after a storm.

He feels weary in a way that has little to do with this evening’s exertion.

Eventually he sneaks back to his own chambers.  

*

Chapter Text

Word of Thor’s feat with the hammer spreads quickly, and it makes Loki feel pride in his brother more than anything else. Fierce pride; the envious child in him who would once have raged at his brother being recognized in this way with no one sparing even a word for him, that Loki is dead.

But soon it becomes clear that news of another sort has been spreading. At least in a smaller circle, those nearest to Thor’s orbit.

Loki feels that something is different one ale-drowned night as the usual group of Thor’s friends and hangers-on is celebrating in a tavern. There is something changed in the mood around them, and Thor seems almost nervous at times, unable to sit still for even a moment.

Even as someone leans over the well-worn table to clasp Thor’s shoulder and offer him drunken congratulations, Loki insists to himself that it cannot be what he thinks, even though Thor is avoiding his gaze.

Someone else makes a rough bow in Thor’s direction.

Another gives a knowing nod.

And Loki would have to be stupid not to piece it together then. and at least he does so before the conversation among Thor and the Warriors Three and Sif turns to the revelation of Thor’s new status as the chosen heir, the future king.

In the middle of it all, with a burning feeling in his chest, Loki manages to excuse himself to the privy for a few moments, where he leans against the wall, disbelieving, forcing himself to breathe. Brow against the cold stones, sweat drying until he shivers.

When he returns, his seat at Thor’s side has been filled, and he sinks into another in the shadows at the far end of the table. Watches, listens as more and more appear to give Thor their congratulations in half-whispers. Thor’s eyes flicker to him a few times, but Loki only shrugs, and he watches Thor begin to relax.

Loki doesn’t notice Fandral taking the seat beside him until the man is already there, a curious look on his face. Casual, stein in his hand, head cocked to one side.

“So that’s been the secret, has it?” he asks, conspiratorial.

Loki has had plenty of practice at this, at pretending he’s not letting any of it affect him, so he simply waits, the slightest smile on his lips, for Fandral to go on. To say what he really means.

“It’s been clear enough ever since he lifted the hammer. So come now, Loki! We are all friends here. How long have you known?”

Fandral gazes at him with curiosity, and Loki cannot stand it. He takes a mouthful of drink to cover his discomfort.

“Only just as long as Thor has.”

He is not a good source of gossip, and Fandral wanders away soon enough, dissatisfied at his inability to get any fun out of the trickster. But Loki knows he is not fortunate enough to be overlooked and forgotten for the rest of the evening, and he spends it with his shoulders tensed, feigning to be at ease, feigning as if he does not feel horribly out of place as he watches the celebrations. He looks around at all the faces, everyone who is now so proud to be a friend to the one who will be king.

Only a few pay him any mind at all. But all of them know. Any who didn’t before… they surely know now.

And Loki finds that though he has had months to prepare, he is still not ready. It is too soon, far too soon, because he finds that he is stupidly upset, no matter how he tries to quash it down.

He was not ready for this much humiliation. He watches Thor, laughing and gracious and glowing a little from the alcohol, and he feels the judgment of everyone in the room upon him, and there is nothing he can do to push the feeling away. Rage at himself, at his stupidity, at how naked and ashamed he has to feel now because of it.

It is almost impossible not to look around at everyone else in this room and envy them. Hate them because they will never have to suffer this.

When he and Thor are alone again, the question forces itself out of his mouth, the words slipping out before he can stop them.  

“How did they find out?” he asks. “We weren’t supposed to tell anyone…”

He hates how young and petulant he sounds, like a whining child. And he’s surprised when Thor looks a little sheepish in reply.

“They guessed. And I could not very well lie when they asked me if it was true.”

And Loki knows: he couldn’t. Such a thing would not be in Thor’s nature. He cannot blame him for that, even if he had meant to. So Loki nods.

“I’m sorry, though,” Thor adds, eyes on Loki’s face. Reading him far better than he would like, if the worry creeping into his expression is any indication.

“It’s alright,” Loki assures him, with as much of a smile as he can manage.

It’s late enough that wisdom sends them soon toward their beds, but first Thor insists upon embracing him, thanking him for being such a good brother.

Loki’s chest aches.

*

In a way, it makes everything easier. That is what Loki concludes in the days that follow.

Easier, because he is no longer stuck between hope and dread. Easier, because now the secret is out and it no longer hangs heavy above his head and there is no more time to quietly, frantically try to prepare himself for the reality of it. Easier, because now all he has to do is endure it.

That is what he insists to himself even as he walks down the corridors of the palace, shoulders tensed in an eternal half-cringe, hating every moment in which he must pass someone and be acknowledged and acknowledge them in return, because he is wondering whether this person or that has heard, wondering how long it will be until everyone knows.

His mind wanders sometimes, tracing over memories and little things he has learned and put aside and nearly forgotten, putting them back together in different ways until he can become almost transfixed by the strange, seemingly sourceless thoughts.

On Svartalfheim, there was reputed to be a punishment for faithless slaves, in which they were lashed to death as slowly as possible with spells cast upon them to keep the wounds fresh, so that the punishment might be drawn out for days, for weeks. They went about their duties, short lengths of chain binding them and blood dripping from their backs, eyes dazed more and more as time went on, until the inevitable end.

On Nidavellir, convicted liars had their mouths sewn shut, publicly. They would be held down and the enchanted needle pushed through their flesh, and their screams would be swallowed by the silence. For the length of their sentence they neither spoke nor ate; those who were lucky managed to suck a few sips of water through their bloodied, mangled lips.

Loki’s memories of these facts are like daydreams, like florid nightmares, but the thoughts are almost soothing.

He wants Thor to hurt him. More. Again.

He shuffles his feet anxiously as he asks, with furtive glances at his brother’s face.

“It could be good, and it’s something we haven’t done before,” he says, near pleading. “Hurt me, and then bind me to your bed, put a gag in my mouth, have your way with me. Do whatever you like. I want to be yours.”

Thor looks him over and takes a step nearer, so that they are nearly chest to chest. Then he lifts a hand, brushes a finger across Loki’s lips.

Loki kisses it, eyes slipping closed.

He hears Thor’s chuckle. “Perhaps. But I’m not sure you’ve been good enough to deserve it lately, have you?”

This is another thing Thor has been trying of late. Feigning to assess him, wanting to see Loki prove his devotion. It’s effective, making Loki scramble each time, no matter what Thor demands.

“I… I have been trying to be,” Loki murmurs. “What more should I...”

“You have the rest of the day to try to convince me, brother,” Thor answers, beautiful arrogant smirk on his face, before Loki can finish.

Loki is left blinking, head turned around, as he watches Thor strut away from him.

He quickly rushes after.

And Loki spends the rest of the day attending even more closely to his brother’s whims, trying to anticipate his desires and fulfill them before Thor can so much as hint at the request. He waits upon Thor hand and foot, and the only thing holding him back in any way is the knowledge that everyone around them must surely notice what is occurring, how strangely he is behaving.

He shouldn’t let that fluster him. If they do notice, they surely only realize that he has at last been shown his place, but the thought still sticks in Loki’s throat and makes a flush of shame rise hot throughout his form. He does it all as unobtrusively as possible. He tries to make it all seem no different than any other day, any other interaction between him and his brother.

But this is what Thor asked of him, so he does it. And in the evening, after supper, he follows to Thor’s chambers when Thor beckons him, and when the door closes he trembles all over with anticipation.

Thor turns his back to him, waiting, and Loki rushes over to unfasten the cape from his shoulders, to hang it on its stand. His hands shake.

“Was I good today?” he asks while he attends him. His voice shakes as well.

Thor gives a little laugh as he turns back to him. “You were. But you were also so incredibly obvious. ‘Tis a good thing you’re my brother or everyone would have put the signs together. All I could see whenever I looked at you was a dog panting after a bitch, hoping for a taste.”

Loki can feel his face growing red, especially when Thor steps into his space and puts his hand to Loki’s cheek, trailing down to his neck and clasping there, on the border between rough and tender. Proprietary and careless. The intensity in his blue eyes makes it almost hard to breathe.

“Is that what you want, Loki? A taste of me?”

When Loki doesn’t answer fast enough, the hand on his neck slides up to tangle in his hair, and before he knows it, Thor’s other hand slaps him right across the face. It stings, and Loki gasps and blinks back reflexive tears.

"That was a question, silvertongue, and I expect you to answer when I speak to you. Now tell me: do you want to taste me?”

"Yes!” Loki gasps. With how tightly he is held, the roots of his hair painful already, Loki cannot nod, and the word is thin from the tension in his throat. "Yes, please, I want…”

Thor’s face breaks into a grin again. “Good. You won’t be getting entirely what you wanted, because it has occurred to me that gagging you would be such a waste of your mouth. Instead, you may use that tongue to prove to me that you deserve reward.”

Then Thor tells him to disrobe and kneel, and Loki does so, and Thor watches, standing over him with an obvious bulge in his trousers and a glint of excitement in his eyes. He looks arrogant, kingly, beautiful. Soft strands of blond curl around his jaw as he looks down upon his servant.

Loki shifts, already desperate to oblige in giving Thor whatever he desires. His bare knees hurt on the hard floor. His pulse races. He waits for Thor’s command.

Thor leans down to look him in the eye, cupping his chin and making Loki meet his gaze.

“You’re not to touch me with your hands or your cock or anything else, because you have not yet earned that honor. The only thing I want to feel is your mouth and tongue, and you will use them wherever I say. Can you do that, Loki?”

Loki nods again, and when Thor straightens, it is to move his booted foot so that it comes to rest lightly on Loki’s crotch, a rough, harsh pressure on his growing erection. He moves his foot slightly, rubbing, and Loki manages not to wince.

This is probably a test of his obedience, but he imagines actually being trod under his brother’s step as punishment for failure, and somehow that only makes him harder.

When Thor removes his foot, he turns and strides toward the bed, snapping his fingers so that Loki will follow. Loki scrambles after on his knees, eyes glued to the glorious motion of Thor’s ass as he walks.

“Kiss my boots,” Thor says, standing by the foot of the bed.

Loki gets down on his belly for the privilege.

He brings his mouth to the smooth leather encasing his brother’s shin and moans against it. The lovely curve of Thor’s calf makes his heart thrum, and he kisses fervently down the side of his ankle, over the top of his foot. It seems suddenly a crime that he has so often neglected this duty, passing over the perfection of his brother’s feet, his ankles, his calves, in favor of the parts above. He means to make up for this error, pressing his cheek against leather now, breathing it in.

But he also has a task to attend to. Loki intends to show his king just how skilled of a mouth his servant has.

He turns his head so Thor can see it as he begins to lick his boot, a broad, lush lap of tongue, unafraid of the taste of dirt and polish, eyes sliding sensually closed. The pink tip tracing into the intricate metal of the armored details. Hoping Thor is imagining how well Loki will bathe his bare skin if he allows it, any part of him.

Loki thinks of doing so and cannot stop himself from panting as he licks, or from casting his eyes up to see what effect his effort is having.

He sees Thor’s hands dropping to his belt, pushing the cloth down a few inches, palming himself.

"You did want to taste me, I see,” Thor says.

Loki groans in agreement and drops his head to kiss wetly at the side of Thor’s instep.

"Perhaps your tongue is worthy of touching me, even if the rest of you is not.”

Loki can only wonder, breathlessly, what Thor has in mind, until he is watching Thor step back to toe off the boots and shove his trousers the rest of the way down and off.

And then watching as Thor climbs up on his hands and knees in the middle of the bed, upon the rich red coverlet, and throws a glance over his shoulder, gives an inviting little wriggle.

Loki realizes all at once what Thor wants.

"Your mouth only,” Thor reminds him, a hint of amusement in the command, as if he wonders whether Loki can manage to obey it. His back is arched, his ass in the air, the little pink hole visible from Loki’s vantage, and Loki feels indeed like the dog Thor has accused him of being, because he is so eager he can feel himself trembling, stomach aflutter and face aflame at the thought of what Thor is asking him to do, as he approaches.

They have never done this before, and the thought is filthy, and Loki wants it. He wants to serve Thor in a way that is surely too lowly for anyone else.

He crawls near, positioning himself behind his brother’s form and kissing delicately across the delicious curve of Thor’s buttocks toward the little furl that awaits his attention.

He’s had his fingers and his cock buried in it countless times. And now, transfixed, he’s nosing in to taste, breathing the musky scent. Nuzzling against tenderest skin and tracing the puckered entrance with the tip of his tongue, feeling the sensitive flesh twitch as he presses his lips fully against it in a deep kiss, and he hears Thor’s sharp intake of breath when he truly starts to lick, wet and eager. A moan rumbles through Thor’s entire form.  

"Ohh, I like your tongue, brother,” he sighs. "Keep doing that.”

The words stoke Loki’s need higher, and he takes a breath before pressing his face against the spread cheeks and plunging his tongue inside, feeling the tight clench of Thor’s hole slowly giving in. The heat inside his brother’s body is a knowledge so obscene that Loki burns with it.

What most makes Loki’s cock twitch and throb, though, is how it is completely clear whose pleasure is being attended to here. He is utterly subservient to his magnificent brother’s command. He is being used at Thor’s filthiest whim. And it feels like this is just what he was made for.

Desperate and suffering, whimpering with need while he seals his mouth against his brother’s sensitive rim, Loki shoves his tongue in as deep as he can, wriggling it, listening for what motions make Thor moan and trying his best to repeat them. It is perfect, the musky taste and the silky texture on his tongue, his nose pressed into the seam of Thor’s ass, chin wet with saliva. Enveloped in the scent and flavor and feel of him, and everything else in the realms is far away and unimportant.

Each time Thor moans and pushes his hips back for more, it makes Loki tremble, makes his lust surge. He imagines Thor ordering him onto his back to do this, Thor kneeling above his face, grinding down hard against him, smothering him between pert, round ass cheeks and forcing him to lick until Thor comes, and the fantasy almost wrecks him.

This is his purpose, pleasing his brother, serving him in any way he can. And the ache of ignored arousal in his loins—it’s just what he deserves. This is what Thor wants, and Loki wants to give it to him.

Thor begins to moan steadily, shifts to bring a hand down to his own cock to tug himself off. It’s plenty to make Loki redouble his efforts, driving his tongue firmly into his brother’s ass over and over, fucking him with it and tasting him inside.

"I wonder how badly you wish that were your cock in me instead,” Thor muses between his groans, and Loki answers with a deep, lusty lick. "Maybe I'll decide I like this better, brother. What do you think? Would you like that, serving me with your tongue only?”

Loki can only whimper at the thought, squirming with need and grateful for getting even this much.

He feels the motions as Thor tugs himself faster, feels him arch to press himself against Loki’s mouth.

"Oh, yes, brother,” Thor moans, "Your tongue is so good, so hot inside me. You’re going to make me come.”

Thor shouts when he does, ass clenching and body trembling, and Loki licks him through it.

And then Thor slumps forward, flopping onto the bed (away from the wet spot), and he turns to Loki, an indulgent look on his face. Pats the space beside him.

Loki crawls up, reeling, his cock heavy between his legs, and lies down on his back where Thor tells him.

Thor glances over at him and laughs.

"Norns, look at you.”

Loki looks down at himself obediently, and it’s true. His erection is bobbing and weeping over his belly, frantic, like it has a mind of its own, flushed to a deep, deep red. It would probably only take a touch to set him off.

Loki swallows and looks away from it. He doesn’t care about that. He does not deserve to think of his own satisfaction. He needs to stop being selfish, needs to truly accept his place and stop caring what others think of him. He needs to learn to be pleased by Thor’s pleasure only.

"Was that what you wanted?” he asks, voice thin and ragged. Almost a croak.

“It was,” Thor says, and all of a sudden Loki is being cuddled, Thor’s arms around him. “Thank you. It was wonderful. Your tongue is so very, very good.”

Pride flushes through Loki’s entire form.

“I have but one other command for you tonight, if you’re willing?”

Loki makes a noise of assent. But it is odd that Thor seems to hesitate a moment, as if he doesn’t know that he can demand whatever he wants.

“Do you think it would be alright if…” He pauses, starts again. “Would you do your best not to come? It looks like you may not be able to help it, but would you try? Tomorrow I want you to fuck me, and I want to drip with your seed. I want to feel how much you desire me and how loyal you are. I want to be filled with the proof of it. Will you try to save it up for me?”

Loki nods, feeling dazed. “Of course, my king.”

Thor squeezes his arm around him and murmurs a few grateful words, and he lets Loki lie there for another hour until his erection has at last subsided and it’s safe for him to dress, though his balls already feel heavy with a strange deep discomfort.

When at last Thor sends him back to his own chambers, Loki is left still dazed.

And though Thor calls for him the next night and allows Loki to fill him, as he had said, and luxuriates in the evidence of Loki’s devotion until it drips from him, the feeling of frustration lingers in Loki’s blood long after. Frustration, leaving him forever on edge, on the verge of something he cannot describe. It fills the background of his thoughts, the silences and the shadows while he hurries about trying to be good for his brother. Trying to ignore the humiliation of so many eyes upon him, knowing things he wished no one would ever know. Trying to force himself to get used to this, because it is never going away. 

*

Chapter Text

The disaster that follows after is surely inevitable.

The frustration that turns to anger, anger like he had not felt since the day Odin told them. He had thought he had lost the ability to feel such a thing, and he had not recognized it when it began to grow up inside him, stealthy and rootless as a creeping vine, and with the thorns to match.

He has no right to feel angry, but he is. His anger is proof of his unworthiness, but he cannot stop himself.

It tangles together with exhaustion until he slips, briefly, thoughtlessly, into old habits. It is easy to do, after centuries of brotherhood, to forget himself in Thor’s presence, to forget everything he has learned in the past months. Only for a few moments, but that is enough.

They had been spending an evening together and it suddenly all felt the way it had when they were children. Loki had felt for a moment like they were boys again, like perhaps they had never grown up.

The disaster happens then. Because of that.

Sheer force of habit turns an innocent remark into an insistent answer into an argument and somehow—because they were raised together and fought together and often fought each other—the argument grows louder, and before Loki realizes it’s happening, the air is sizzling with rage, and Thor is shouting back at him.

The familiarity of such a scene means that it takes Loki far, far too long—whole moments—to catch himself. Not until after he has replied in kind, saying things he regrets the moment they leave his tongue. Halting in midphrase when he realizes. Vision blurring, terror and panic rising in his throat to choke him.

Eyes wide, he can do nothing but watch as Thor storms out. Heart pounding, he chases after, calling to Thor to wait, to come back, pleading that he hadn’t meant it, but the door slams in his face and leaves Loki there alone amidst the echo of angry words.

And now he’s left standing on nothing as the floor falls away from beneath his feet, guts plunging down. He feels sick, lightheaded, weak-limbed. He stumbles back to his chambers, his skin damp and cold. He makes it to the edge of the bed before his legs give out beneath him.

The fight itself had felt so familiar. But watching Thor leave was wholly different.

Loki doesn’t believe Thor has left him. It was just like one of so many other fights throughout their lives, and in a few days, after his anger has spent itself and his vanity been sated, Thor will put it from his mind as if it had never happened.

But as Loki perches there, shaky and weak, the truth snaps into focus. Just one more in a string of so many truths that Loki should have known long ago.

Thor hasn’t left him, but he will. It’s inevitable.

Thor will someday come to his senses. He will grow tired of his toy, or he will find something better, someone who comes nearer to deserving him as Loki never will. Even if that somehow does not happen, when Thor is king he will have to have heirs, will have to take a queen. and though Loki knows he would gladly suffer being forever his brother’s dirty secret, Thor would not do that to whichever woman he chooses. Thor is far too good for that.

Loki will be cast aside in the end. Thrown away.

He sits there, hands against his eyes and trying to breathe in a somewhat slower rhythm, and he can do nothing but imagine it. He imagines the centuries that will follow that moment, and he wonders if Thor will even allow Loki to stay at his side afterward. If he does, it will be misery, because Loki knows he will never stop secretly, pathetically pining for his brother, and he will have to keep his feelings hidden while his heart tries to burst in his chest.

It will be much like when they were children, the same unfulfilled longing that used to masquerade as jealous envy and bitter resentment, except he will know precisely what he is missing and precisely why he has lost it.

And that is only if Thor allows him to remain, which is far from guaranteed. When Thor has better companions by his side, he will surely see no further use in his brother. He will surely grow beyond the need for his younger sibling, finding worthier outlets for his love.

Loki spends the night fitfully dozing, agonizing over the uncertainty in each waking moment and falling into miserable dreams between times, waking up struggling and sweating from nightmares he cannot recall and closing his eyes again.

It is not yet dawn when he sits upright, peeling himself away from the dampened pillow, head throbbing and an itch under his skin.

He needs to go. Just for today, so as to avoid irritating Thor further with the sight of him so soon after their fight. And it will also give him more time to think.

If Thor rejects him and sends him away, he will have nothing. No brother, no home, no purpose. And he should simply accept that, but he finds he cannot. He cannot bear the thought.

He finds himself trying to find a solution, some excuse to offer when that day comes, some reason for Thor to still want Loki at his side.

Loki feels guilty at the thought, at how he is still simply trying to take more than he deserves, yet it’s all he can think about as he dresses, as he slips out of the palace, as he wanders out into the city.

He passes a group of young boys playing together with wooden swords, chasing each other around a cart in the road, and the corners of his mouth turn up. He remembers being that age—remembers being young enough to throw a cape over his shoulders and hold tight to a wooden staff and pretend it was Gungnir, imagining himself as king. It seems almost ridiculous now that he had ever entertained the idea, that he had ever been that naive. But he leaves the children to their play and continues onward, through bustling marketplaces and down quiet, well-tended streets.

What can he possibly offer Thor that the king will not already have in abundance?

The question resounds, answerless, as he wanders all the way out into the countryside, and by then it is nightfall, the sky darkening above, the stars coming out, finding their places one by one.

When at last he grows tired, Loki sits down in the tall grass by the roadside, his back to a stone road marker, and he wraps his cloak around his body against a damp cold that is pervading the air. With the night-sounds around him, the rustle of wind in the grass, the occasional call of birds or a wolf’s howl in the distance, it takes hours for sleep to come to him, but his mind drifts. He envisions a scrawny, dark-haired boy with wide eyes, and he imagines that boy seeing him now. He imagines having to explain to him what his future will truly be. What a wretched end he is fated for. He imagines an entire conversation, jaw clenching, imagines the boy’s shock, his disbelief. The lip wavering. The wet, shining wide eyes. Loki imagines telling him everything, and he feels a strange satisfaction at the vision, the boy’s tears.

Eventually Loki’s head nods onto his shoulder and he sleeps.

What wakes him, hours later, is a wandering goat attempting to sample the hem of Loki’s garb, stubborn madness in its eye as Loki flails awake and tries to push it away, with only brief success. The bell on its collar clanks and he can hear others in the near distance… Loki has no choice but to drag himself up off the damp ground before it can try again.

He sighs as he looks, bleary-eyed, around the damp, misty field. He shivers a little in the morning chill. It may as well be time to go back.

He is walking through the palace gates again a little after sundown, while the sky is still a wash of colors.

Loki has barely gone a dozen steps, though, when Frigga intercepts him, greeting him without any hint of opprobrium in her voice, but Loki can feel it anyhow.

“I can certainly understand the need to get away now and then,” she tells him. “But if we had not had Heimdall to tell us that you were well and merely stargazing on your own, we might have grown quite worried.”

She doesn’t need to say any more than that before Loki is stuttering out an apology, unable to quite meet her gaze.

“I’m sorry. I wasn’t thinking.”

She gives him a sympathetic smile, pats his hand.

When he returns to his chambers, he feels like a scolded child anyway.

And when he knocks on his brother’s door, it remains closed to him, despite his hesitant hello.

An hour later, he ventures down to the feasting hall (belatedly feeling the complaints of his belly after almost two days without a meal), and there he finds Thor among the usual crowd, and he cannot resist slipping in among them, at least at the edges.

Perhaps Thor’s anger with him has spent itself already; his brother’s rage was always much like a storm, powerful but quick to pass. It was only Loki who had taught him to be otherwise. Loki who had made Thor draw out the storm until his stubborn brother had felt its effects sufficiently.

Loki nibbles on a dark crust of bread, stomach gnawing with worry as well as hunger, while he waits for Thor to notice his presence. Waits to see if Thor is ready to acknowledge him again.

Only once during the meal do Thor’s eyes flash over him, lingering for just a moment. The expression there is unreadable. Haughty and dark. Angry and amused. Loki cannot tell.

He doesn’t see Thor alone until he is lingering, hopeful, in their shared hallway at the end of the night, and Thor appears. His shoulders tense in silhouette when he spots Loki waiting for him, and he stalks toward him. Loki cannot help but retreat, quick backwards steps until his shoulder blades hit the wall and Thor is upon him.

Kissing him, then pushing him back when Loki tries to wind his arms around to embrace him.

There is a pleased glint in Thor’s eyes, though, and Loki can make no sense of any of this.

“Not long ago you asked me to hurt you and bind you,” Thor says in a low, secretive voice. “Were you trying to give me an excuse? A reason to make you be good and stay put?”

Loki flounders to answer. “I… I didn’t mean...”

“If you want me to punish you, come to me in the morning, brother,” Thor says before kissing him once more and turning on his heel, shutting his own door firmly behind him.

Loki can do nothing but obey.

*

When morning comes, Loki’s nerves are tangled and tensed with uncertainty over what Thor means to do to him, and also—at some point in the night, he remembered that today they are both required in one of Odin’s longer councils. A tedious affair that usually spans from morning to evening, with drawn-out arguments on obscure topics.

Thus he knocks on Thor’s door just after sunrise, uncertain what, indeed, they can possibly have time for this morning.

He finds Thor still in his dressing robe, the belt untied to reveal bare skin beneath. Thor invites him in, and Loki watches, waiting, as he selects his garb from his wardrobe.

The first item is a handful of silky fabric, dark blue and with a faint sheen, slightly crumpled as Thor pulls it from a drawer. He displays the little garment by dangling it on one finger, holding it up for Loki to see.

“You said before you wanted me to gag you,” Thor says in the face of Loki’s confusion. “I just wanted to show you what your gag will be.”

Loki stares as Thor steps into the little briefs, draws them up over his legs, adjusts them on his hips. The perfect outline of Thor’s cock and stones within them, their sheen on the delectable curve of his ass…

Loki’s own cock is stirring and his mouth is dry by the time Thor is tugging trousers on over them, hiding them from his sight. And he spends the whole day aware of it, aware of what Thor plans to do, as they sit side by side in the council chambers.

The knowledge makes him eager for whatever punishment Thor has planned, but he ought to be anyway, so he lets himself feel it and counts down the hours.

*

That night, Thor needs only beckon him, needs only close the door behind them.

Loki’s knees are likely bruised from how quickly he falls to them a moment after at Thor’s order, but for a brief time Thor ignores him. He goes about the room, pulling off his boots, his belt, his tunic, his undershirt. Turning his back to push down his trousers, and pulling on his robe. All he wears beneath it, again, is the silky blue briefs, and he comes to loom over Loki, imposing, brows drawn together.

He stands with a haughty, princely lift of his chin, looking down his nose at the figure kneeling before him, the corners of his mouth turned down. The look of anger makes Loki tremble, makes his heart thump in anxious terror, though just a little while ago in the hallway, his brother was smiling at him, speaking to him normally, clasping Loki’s shoulder in his hand.

“You argued with your king, Loki. And then you fled, cravenly.” Thor growls down at him now. “Do you have anything to say for yourself while I still allow you to speak?”

Tears spring into Loki’s eyes, hot and cold squirming down his spine at the sound of Thor’s anger. “I… I’m sorry. I make no excuse. I was wrong. Please forgive me.”

Thor hums, contemplative. “Perhaps I will… once you have taken your punishment.”

“Yes, my king. Please…”

“All right. Then disrobe and lie on the bed, limbs out.”

Loki does so while Thor pulls a small chest from beneath his nightstand, and Loki at first can’t see what he draws from it after a brief rummage. Only that he can hear a muted metallic clanking as Thor picks up whatever it is.

When the first snaps shut around his ankle, he identifies it as the sound of shackles, the sort used in the dungeons. Precisely the sort used in the dungeons. Thor must have taken them.

Loki stares as Thor closes the third pair around his wrist, fixing the other end to the bedpost. “When did you…?”

Thor gives him a smug grin. “I know you, brother. It was only a matter of time before I would need such a thing, with a trickster to tame.”

Moments later, Loki lies bound and helpless, tension tightening and fluttering in his belly. And then he sees the other item that Thor pulled from the chest, when he reveals it in his hand. A braided quirt, stout but narrow, two leather tails trailing from its end.

Loki’s eyes widen and he hears himself whimper. He can feel Thor’s gaze as it travels up and down his body.

Thor traces the same path with the end of the quirt, letting Loki feel it just brushing against his skin.

“I’m going to punish you now.”

Loki’s body trembles. "Yes, my king, please… please.”

Loki wants it. Wants Thor to be happy with him again. That need is sharp in his chest.

“Are you going to behave yourself after this, brother?”

Loki nods in desperate agreement.

Thor gives him a quirk of a grin.

“Then open your mouth.”

Loki does so as Thor strips off the silken briefs and shoves them between his teeth, the musk of them filling his nostrils and the knowledge of where they have been sparking a sudden burst of arousal through Loki’s body.

It all serves to heighten his sensitivity when Thor brings the quirt down hard across Loki’s chest, and he cries out, the sound softened by cloth.

Thor begins there but keeps going, laying quick, sharp lines of pain across Loki’s torso, his arms, the soft tops of his thighs.

Loki whimpers and gasps each time. Yanks involuntarily against the shackles. Tries to open himself up to it.

It’s so different from a fight. So different from simply being hit with fists. It’s strange, unfamiliar—he can twist and squirm and struggle but he cannot escape, cannot take pride in his own ability to take such punishment because he doesn’t have a choice about it. The shackles hold him in place, no matter what he would do, and he lets this fact impress itself upon him.

He is completely at his brother’s mercy, and he should at least be smart enough to learn the lesson being beaten into him. No matter what he intends, he seems always to revert back to thinking only of himself. Caring only about his own misery. Being selfish and stupid and letting his mouth run away with him, getting himself into trouble in ways only he could manage.

He whimpers and whines, and he lets out a muffled, guttural cry as the lick of the quirt lands right beneath his nipple.

That causes Thor to smirk down at him. "I’m far from done, brother, and I know you can take far more than that. I have not even gotten to the good parts.”

Loki—with a naivete that lasts only a few more moments—cannot guess what he means.

When the tails of the quirt trace slowly down his belly, along the trail of dark hair, almost tickling and making his abdomen tense and twitch, he understands, and he feels himself blanch.

When the tails of the quirt dance along the length of his erection—somehow, somehow his cock is achingly stiff—he can’t breathe from the knowledge of what Thor means to do.

"I think you’ll be very obedient if I punish you here,” Thor says, still dragging the leather tails back and forth. "So I'm going to, until you cry. And then I'll know that you’re truly sorry.”

Loki tries to shake his head, but he dares not try to spit out the cloth from his mouth. I am sorry, I am truly sorry, please… no…  he wants to beg, but he cannot. And maybe it is better that he does not have to find out whether Thor would have stopped at his plea.

The stroke that falls on his hard length is far gentler than the ones Thor laid across the tougher flesh of his chest and legs, but it’s still enough to make the world flash white and make his whole body jolt, to make him shout. It stings, and the sting warms into a deep throb, and just when the ripples of pain have receded enough for him to think, a second stroke falls. His body tries to twist away from it—he cannot control himself, it’s far too much, too much, too intense—tries to protect his tenderest flesh, but he is bound too well, and Thor is too skilled with the lash to let him escape it.

By the time the third lands, he’s moaning and whimpering incoherently, thrashing his head, and at last Thor pauses.

Loki doesn’t deserve to be pleading for anything, however wordlessly, but he cannot stop himself, and he’s never felt relief so great as the sound of the quirt being tossed aside, the feel of Thor’s hand wrapping around his cock instead, stroking. He doesn’t even care that Thor seems to know just where to touch to make him feel the pain of those three lashes all over again, each time his hand tightens or moves.

Thor laughs at him softly, filling him with hot shame. "Was that too much for you, brother?”

Loki nods, on the edge of tears.

“Very well. I won’t make you endure more of that. But you’ll still take the rest of your punishment.”

Loki nearly sobs in gratitude.

Thor continues to stroke him, pumping his fist up and down Loki’s cock, while his other hand cups around Loki’s stones, seeming to weigh them, before releasing them again.

When Thor slaps his balls, it hardly matters that it’s little more than a tap, just fingers on the soft skin of his scrotum. Loki still screams.

Thor strokes him and slaps him in time, and Loki is aware of nothing else in the world but Thor’s hands. Sounds are dull and distant and tangled together in his ears. The world is a blur. His thoughts are white noise. Just the agony, the torment as Thor punishes him in the most sensitive of places. He’s only vaguely aware that he is making noises, pathetic, whining cries, that his whole body is quaking, moving in uncontrollable convulsions.

The misery Thor’s hands create in him builds and builds, and he knows he deserves it, but he also needs—needs to feel Thor’s forgiveness, no matter how unworthy he is.

What he wants most in that moment is just to be allowed to serve his brother. To please him. That is all he wants, and he cannot have it.

He cannot have it in this moment, instead squirming in pain while his brother hurts him.

He cannot have it forever, his place at Thor’s side tenuous and doomed to end.

Loki feels himself begin to sob at last, as Thor demanded. Head fuzzy, tears burning in his eyes and trailing down the side of his face, and it’s not from the pain at all.

How pathetic he must look, a pale, writhing, pitiful thing with welts all across his body, wrists and ankles rubbed raw, angry red cock still desperately hard in Thor’s grip… and crying because he’s not good enough to deserve to serve his brother’s needs.

When Thor slaps his balls again and tugs his flesh, Loki embraces the pain, hips jerking, moaning miserably, giving himself over to whatever Thor wishes to do with him.

Another soft, fond laugh at his expense, and the humiliation burns.

"I can only imagine how that hurts, and yet you’re still hard. You’ll probably come in my hand if I keep doing this. Are you going to come in my hand, Loki?”

Loki can only nod and squirm, still breathing the heavy scent of sex and sour sweat from the garment in his mouth, driven mad by it. And moments later he does come, just as Thor slaps his balls one last time, the spike of agony shooting through him and setting him off, whole body seizing as he spills, teeth grinding together through cloth as he groans.

Through blurry vision he catches a brief glimpse of Thor’s face, watching him with gentle fascination in his blue eyes, and for some reason it wrings another wet sob from his throat, while the last jolts of his orgasm taper away.

In the aftermath, he can’t stop crying. He aches all over; he aches inside.

He wants so badly to be worthy of his brother’s love. He wants so badly to be able to ignore his own misery and behave as he should. He feels it afresh with each aftershock of pain and each aching heartbeat, wanting, wanting to be worthy of Thor.

"Loki,” Thor says, sounding worried, after removing the gag and the shackles, massaging at his wrists and ankles for a moment before coming to lie beside him. Pulling him close, holding him as his shoulders shake. "Loki, what’s wrong—”

Loki twists in his embrace and surges against him, lips open and hungry, finding Thor’s mouth and kissing him hard. The kiss tastes of the salt of his tears but Thor gasps against it before kissing back.

"Give me something to do for you, my king,” Loki murmurs between wet, sloppy, desperate kisses. "Please, let me do something…”

*

Thor ends up allowing Loki to worship his body, to kiss him reverently everywhere, from his toes to his ears, and Loki loses himself in it.

Those hours spent imagining what it will be like if Thor ever leaves him—it makes Loki cherish every little detail of his brother’s existence with new fervor.

He spends a good deal of time kissing Thor’s ankles, tracing the shape of Thor’s calves with his fingertips, massaging his strong thighs.

At least as long adoring his navel—the ancient knot of skin still sensitive and precious—licking into it playfully because it makes Thor laugh.

Loki kisses his way up Thor’s chest, feeling the strong heartbeat under his lips, and he kisses Thor’s arms and gently nudges him to lift them so that Loki can nuzzle under them, pressing his nose into the warm thicket of dark blond hair there, reveling in Thor’s scent, drinking it in.

This makes Thor chuckle as well.

And what Thor eventually asks for is Loki’s hand, for Loki to stroke his cock while lying beside him, so that they can kiss and touch and gaze upon each other as he finds completion.

“I can’t believe you once would not have wanted to do that,” Thor says, smiling—glowing—afterward, with Loki still feeling the depth of his kisses, the tenderness of it as he came gasping against Loki’s mouth.

Loki cannot believe it either. But at least some things he has learned, and he would no longer deny his brother anything.

Chapter Text

The punishment Thor gave him for his misdeeds only whets his need, but he is not far gone enough to misbehave to get more of the same.

He wheedles, he tempts, he suggests. And usually Thor obliges, because for all Loki’s faults, he knows his brother’s tastes well.

Thor relishes Loki’s admiration, his obedience. Thor likes to have his vanity stroked. He likes to have evidence how much Loki desires him. And that is something that is not difficult for Loki to give.

He prostrates himself as his brother’s feet, bowing there with his face to the ground, and when he dares to gaze up there is nothing but reverence and need in his eyes.

The toe of Thor’s tall boot shoves Loki over, onto his back, and Loki sprawls where he has been kicked for only a moment before the heel comes down again, slow, directly onto the center of his chest. It digs into his flesh, presses down in a sudden, sharp motion that forces his breath from his lungs. He would whimper if he still had the air to do so, and he is so hard it is driving him mad.

“Do you like that, Loki? Do you like to be beneath my feet?” Thor asks as he leans over, lips curved cruelly.

Loki’s heart beats against the bottom of Thor’s boot, and he nods his frantic agreement.

And when Thor lifts his foot, it is to nudge at Loki’s ribs with the edge of his sole, shifting him bodily like something Thor does not want to touch. Another motion ends in a kick at the flesh of his thigh where it meets the floor. He cringes and flinches and moans. And he is grateful at how much Thor is willing to give him.

By the time Thor stops, Loki is dazed and aching and sore, with swollen knots on his flesh that will turn into deep, black bruises, but for the moment Loki feels almost inebriated. The pain hums through him as he sprawls where he was left, panting and trying to catch his breath, and when Thor kneels down beside him, caressing the darkening bruises, Loki rolls up to meet him in an instant.

Loki has gotten what he wanted, and now Thor demands, and Loki is eager to obey. To please him. They end up bare together, in the same place upon the floor where Thor kicked him, but now Thor luxuriates on his side, propped on an elbow, so that Loki can fuck him and kiss his foot at the same time. Kiss the foot that struck him. Kiss the foot that trod upon him. That gave him what he needed, so that now—

Thor likes to see how much he can do and Loki will still crave his body like air, will still need his love, his approval. And Loki obliges, demonstrating that craving in every way he can.

Loki makes Thor come first, at his command, thumb rubbing in the wetness just beneath the head of Thor’s cock while Loki thrusts inside him. Thor gazes back at him, eyelashes fluttering as his belly tenses, as he spills over Loki’s hand. Loki spills inside moments after, grateful, still sore, still feeling the press of Thor’s boot on his chest pushing him down where he belongs—being trod on by Thor is an honor. Being with Thor at all.

It’s nearly enough to call happiness, such moments, no matter how brief they are.  

*

Not many days after, Odin calls the two of them to speak with him—or, of course, rather to listen. And by now, just the summons alone has Loki’s heart thudding.

How many times will he find himself standing before their father, feeling once again like a child, all too aware of his own weakness and failures? He scolds himself for it as they walk, berates himself for his fear and his inability to ever adjust to this.

When they reach that room, the two of them alone with the Allfather in his study, Odin notifies them that he means to make the public announcement soon. Plans are being made. Formalities are being observed. Representatives from other realms will soon enough be summoned, to meet with Thor and the Allfather in preparation for that day when they will have to treat with the younger, with a new king for the first time in millennia. Dignitaries from all parts of Asgard will attend as well. And as he explains these things, Odin glances between them both with a look of satisfaction, giving them each their roles: with Thor at the forefront and Loki most often concealed in the shadows, or else providing silent support, watching and waiting for Thor to have need of him. Making best use of both their strengths, Odin tells them.

The words sit in Loki’s belly like a stone. But none of this is shocking; Loki had already known to expect it, today or tomorrow or months from now.

The discomfort he feels has only one meaning. That he has been terribly foolish.

He has spent all this time telling himself that he was preparing, yet he was deceiving himself only, playing himself for a fool. Merely playing with this idea rather than treating it seriously. Taking punishments that were no punishment at all and pretending that would inure him to the pain in his future. Seeking happiness instead.

He needs something to truly teach him his place, such that he will not forget it. And he has little time left, so it must do its job quickly, thoroughly.

In an instant he is lightheaded and gasping, limbs suddenly losing all their strength, because he knows what needs to happen. Something that he fears more than the worst of beatings, that makes him cringe at the thought.

He waits a few days, to get up the courage. And then, he does not even think about it that night as he goes to Thor’s chambers, as he strips off his tunic and stands before his brother in only his trousers, waiting for Thor to decide what he wants that night.

“You should fuck me, my king,” Loki’s mouth blurts out before he is aware that he intends to speak. “The other way, you should… you should take me.”

That, that will not be the sort of punishment he craves, not the sort he will just end up perversely enjoying. He cannot be permitted to continue to weep and moan about how little he deserves, while taking everything he wants. This will end his hypocrisy. Yet terror washes through his veins at his own words and at the way Thor looks at him, curiously, afterwards.

His brother steps nearer, strokes fingers through his hair and peers closely at his face as if seeking some deception.

“You always said you did not want to do that.”

Loki swallows with difficulty. Of course he said that, because he may be the worthless second prince, may be the devious and untrustworthy trickster, but he isn’t—

He will do anything for Thor, will suffer any pain, any humiliation, anything except—

Loki feels like he is choking, and he doesn’t know why he cannot bear the thought. Except that each time Thor lets Loki slide between his legs, he feels that he is being given something. A gift, a great honor, one he does not deserve but that Thor chooses to give him anyway.

And Loki cannot do that. Whatever it is that Thor gives him, he himself does not have it to give; this is simply another way in which he cannot match up to his brother. The thought of attempting it is all wrong, so wrong that he feels as if his insides are being wrenched in some great vise each time he imagines it.

But this is what he deserves, and this is what will teach him the lesson he needs to learn, so he forces a smile, willing it not to look as weak and shaky as it feels.

“I’ve changed my mind,” he says. “We ought to try it.”

Thor still looks dubious but agrees to oblige him.

“Tomorrow,” Thor insists, and Loki nods.

That won’t give him too much time for panic and regret, but perhaps enough time to steel himself to endure.

*

He goes to his brother early the next night, nerves jangling, but Thor is already waiting for him, and the first thing he does is pull Loki into an embrace, arms around him before tilting Loki’s face to kiss him.

“We don’t have to do this,” he says. “Are you sure you want it?”

Loki can’t make his voice work, but he manages to nod.

“You know I love having you inside me,” Thor adds, voice low and eyes on his, open and tender and with an undercurrent of heat, and Loki’s cock tries to give a twitch at the words, but his fear overrides everything else. “I’ve always loved it. There isn’t any imbalance between us because of that. You know that, don’t you?”

Loki forces himself to nod, still meeting Thor’s gaze so that it won’t seem like a lie.

“I just want to try,” he manages to say, breath absent.

Thor plays with Loki’s hair and strokes his face, contemplative. “If you’re certain,” he says after a few moments. “You have been good enough lately that I can hardly deny you whatever you would ask of me.”

Loki feels lightheaded when Thor guides him to disrobe and lie down upon the bed, on his back, but he obeys, and he lies there, nervous, heart hammering against his breastbone, while Thor rummages in the chest beneath his nightstand.

When Thor turns back to him, he has in his hands a familiar bottle of translucent blue glass, half filled with oil. And also a toy in the shape of a man’s prick.

A few times Thor has made Loki use it on him, fucking him with it so that Loki could claim no pleasure for himself. It is not terribly large, and Loki knows the feel of it in his grasp, soft as skin, pliant, warming in instants.

But the familiar sight turns this real. Sweat springs up all over Loki’s body.

Thor’s eyes are on him as a brief whimper escapes.

“I know you, brother, and I’m not going to let you goad me into taking you too fast. I’m going to make sure this is good for you. So I’m going to put this inside you first, until you get used to the sensation.”

Terrified, Loki nods, and he lies there like a doll as his brother’s hands pull his thighs farther apart.

He feels cold all over, then hot. His fingertips tingle oddly. He lays his head back against the pillow when Thor tells him, saying how it may feel strange but that Loki must stop him if it begins to hurt.

The first thing Thor puts into him is a slippery finger, working it gradually inside, and his other hand rubs a soft circle on Loki’s thigh, slides up to play up and down his belly, where it is tensed with fright. Loki can hear his brother’s voice but he can hardly focus on the words anymore. It’s a low, flowing murmur and it should be soothing. Loki tries to follow its rhythm at least, but it feels like there is cotton in his ears.

This was his own choice. He told Thor to do this. He asked for this.

Loki squeezes his eyes shut and tries to feel Thor’s other hand, that gentle rubbing, rather than the invasion, the sensation of being pulled apart. He feels bared, revealed, and he almost can’t stand it.

A second finger joins the first. And after a while, in which time seems to have blurred, they slide out, a cold slick wet feeling, and the broad head of the dildo is pressing against him instead.

He gasps at the burn as Thor pushes it in. But the physical sensations barely matter. He feels almost numb, and everything goes grey. He feels sick, and he is angry that it does not hurt, because he needs something more like pain, needs something to fight against. Instead, his eyes are wide and he tries to blink the blurring away and still he can’t see a thing. He does not know why he feels this way, why he is so...

Helpless, foolish, weak...

He shudders all over. He is selfish, still concerned with his own pleasure, and it disgusts him. His body tries to squirm, as if his discomfort matters, and he hates it. He hears himself panting too fast, almost whining, and Thor repositions so that he is practically looming over Loki, thrusting the wretched thing slowly in and out of him, and Loki wants to cry out for Thor to stop, but he will not. He will not cry off.

But the last sturdy things within him are crumbling, and he cannot take in another breath, cannot let the last one out. The words, the thoughts resound like a drum in time with his heartbeat.

...vile, selfish, worthless...

With no warning, the thrusts slow to a halt.

"Loki?”

Loki answers with a little noise in the back of his throat, looking up at Thor, only realizing then that his eyes are wet. "You don’t have to stop,” he manages to whisper.

But Thor frowns, and Loki feels the damp tip of the dildo glancing against the inside of his thigh as it is set aside, discarded. Thor’s fingers instead prod tentatively at his flaccid prick. "You’re not enjoying this…”

It’s not quite a statement, not quite a question, but full of worry, and Loki feels himself squirming. Thor touches his cock more, a light caress. The touch seems invasive and strange, enough to make him shiver—being found soft makes him want to turn his face aside and hide from Thor’s gaze.

"You should do it anyway,” Loki says, breathless.

"But you don’t like this.”

Once again Loki feels tears running down his temples. He bites his lip, eyes averted.

He doesn’t know why he feels like this, confusion drowning everything else.

"I won’t do something you don’t like,” Thor adds, insistent. “This is hurting you, brother. I won’t.”

It makes Loki shiver in relief, in gratitude for his brother’s gentleness, and at the same time he feels almost frantic at his failure.

But Thor is still gently stroking at the pliant flesh between his legs, and he leans in to kiss him. It is soothing, and Loki’s gratitude swells even more.

"I’m sorry,” he gasps against Thor’s lips. "I don’t… I…”

Thor shushes him, and that kindness (and how little he deserves it) makes more tears drip from his eyes, and he hates that he cannot stop it.

"What do you need, Loki?” Thor asks, fondling his soft cock and nuzzling at his shoulder. "Tell me. Shall I play with this until you like me again?”

"I like you,” Loki mumbles in alarm, face flushing hot—it’s an understatement. But his cock is unwilling to awaken to prove it.

Thor only continues to fondle him, taking no notice of the way he trembles. It does feel good, soothing, Thor’s touch upon his skin. But also he feels bare and vulnerable, at Thor’s mercy.

"It is sweet like this, in a way.” Thor chuckles as he says it, manipulating the flesh, bending it and squishing it between his fingers in a way he could not if Loki were even slightly hard.

And then Thor shifts down Loki’s body to put his mouth upon him, and Loki’s flesh is still sluggish to respond.

Warmth, wetness, Thor’s tongue rubbing over the head. Thor’s lips closing around him completely, sucking on him—like this he is only a small mouthful.

It is humiliating. But when he does begin to respond, it is with the strangest sensation. Everything is suddenly far more sensitive, so that as he begins to harden in Thor’s mouth it is almost too much. It makes him squirm and cry out, almost babbling, and Thor pins his hips under his hands while he continues to suck.

Loki feels yet more shameful droplets on his cheeks as he is quickly driven close to the edge.

"Oh… oh… Thor, brother—please!”

By the time Thor sits back, smug, Loki is fairly writhing, now fully hard.

"Ah, there you are,” Thor says with a laugh as Loki blinks at him and moans. "Feel better now?”

And for the moment, he does.

But later that night, lying in bed alone, it comes crashing back. The feeling of everything inside him crumbling.

Chapter Text

Only a month remains before the announcement is to be made, and Loki feels different.

Something has changed, like some part of him has become hardened, and at the same time he feels as thin and fragile as glass. He feels he might shatter and break.

He feels as if something is about to happen, but he has no notion what.

And is that not the most foolish thought?

Yet he feels like he is waiting, like he has been unknowingly lingering just for something that is fated to occur.

When the tidings first come from the far reaches of Asgard, a sudden tension takes hold of him, tensing his shoulders and making his heart race. They’re strange tidings, news of what some claim are troll incursions, though trolls have not trespassed in the Eternal Realm for half an age. Word of mysterious attacks, brutal raids that spared none to tell the tale, only the wreckage left behind. They all take place far on the borders of Asgard as well, regions that are rich only in farms and livestock and simple folk. Less well guarded. Places that nonetheless have been safe and at peace for thousands of years. 

Thor’s friends are instantly abuzz with the news, with chatter and gossip and speculation, and when they begin to suggest it, Thor considers it for only moments before he begins to smile, dangerous and arrogant, and Loki hears his own voice agreeing, quiet but immediate.

A few of the others—those that even bother to notice anymore—look at him in surprise, and it strengthens his determination.

It feels almost like they are still children. Like he’s stepping toward a foolish, bone-breaking leap and striding out onto empty air, just because they think he won’t. Just to prove his courage. Just to prove them wrong. And to prove that he is more loyal than any of the rest of them and will be at Thor’s side, no matter what happens.

That is what it feels like when he willingly goes along with Thor’s plan to investigate this matter personally, as the heir to Asgard’s throne. He knows Thor has to do this, and he is proud of his brother and will not abandon him.

He's not sure why it also feels like a mistake. But he cannot make himself back down, stubbornness carrying him along despite the squirming in his belly.  

He goes along quietly as they slip away, never informing the Allfather or anyone else of their plans, announcing only a few days’ adventuring. It feels like he has no other choice.

He rides away with dread and determination rushing through him, knowing that what he was waiting for has surely come.

*

Once on the road, though, he is buoyed, lofted up by Thor’s excitement, Thor’s happiness.

It is the first time since Thor claimed the hammer that there has been a true threat, and now he is eager to face it. Eager for the triumph that will come, and as soon as he is telling the tale the way he thinks it will go, Loki cannot help but agree.

Of course Thor will be victorious. Of course there is no danger of any other outcome. There is nothing to really fear.

Giddiness rises up in Loki, warring with the lingering, inexplicable feeling of dread, and they intertwine until he cannot tease out one from the other and cannot force himself to be calm, to be still.

He rides at Thor’s side, and it strikes him now and then that this may be their last adventure before the whole realm knows that Thor is to be king. The children picking daisies in the fields beside the road, faces turning to gaze in awe at the riders as they pass—for now they see only two princes. They might even be too young and innocent to notice that one is entirely within the other’s shadow, though sunlight falls upon them both.

Loki smiles, the day’s warmth spreading through him even more as Thor’s mount pulls a little ahead, and the sun flows over his hair like liquid gold. Thor turns in the saddle to glance back at him, asking him some question which Loki blindly answers.

Loki’s inability to calm himself lasts well into the night; the company halts just at the edge of a wood, the mountains rising off to their left, and they make a rough and ready camp there on ground slightly damp from earlier showers. They build a small fire, but they are traveling light so supplies are limited, with only Volstagg having bothered to pack any pots or pans. Nonetheless, someone else did bring a few small bottles of spirits (much lighter and easier to carry than great sloshing jugs of wine) and those are passed around the circle.

Loki fidgets when one reaches him, and he tips it back, letting the burn fill his mouth while he listens to the hushed chatter, the talk of what they expect to find when they reach the distant, isolated farming villages that are their destination.

The night ends early when the wind becomes blusteringly chill and the stars above are lost behind a blanket of gathering cloud.

In their tent, he and Thor lie down side by side, and they do no more than steal a momentary kiss, a mere brushing of lips, but Loki feels no lack.

He can fall asleep listening to Thor’s breathing and the soft, distant rumble of thunder. With that alone he is content.

Sometime in the night Loki is briefly woken by the pattering of rain, and he finds that Thor has migrated closer to him, their legs twining together, one of Thor’s arms cast over Loki’s torso. There is little light through the clouds from only a waning moon, and it feels like all the realm is quiet and still and cold, and Loki’s sleep-fuzzed mind is empty.

He stares into the darkness and he realizes that he is still waiting for whatever is going to occur.

*

When morning comes, the ground is muddy and the damp has gotten into everything, and the company is glad to make a start again, shaking off their shivering as they pack up their camp, rubbing arms and tugging cloaks tight and mounting up as soon as possible. Gladder still when the clouds break at noon and leave behind pale skies.

Loki no longer pays any attention to their talk, though. Today, his mind wanders, remembering things he has not thought of in years.

Every little sight reminds him of something. The green forest that angles away to the foot of the mountain—all at once he is hearing for the first time a tale of far-off realms, when he was small enough to have never seen any of them. Stories of Alfheim and Nornheim. Tales of giants in the distant past, or the great wolves and dragons and mysterious beasts of legend. Loki shivers as he rides, not out of any fear or indeed because of the biting wind but just for a sudden sense of loss.

He looks at Thor, who is smiling broadly, laughing with good cheer, surrounded by the friends he gathers so effortlessly. He is an arrogant prince, spoiled and brash and vain. Loki could always see that, even when they were younger. But somehow he lived his entire life watching Thor without ever really comprehending why Thor was worthy anyway.

Loki had only been aware that whatever it was, he did not have it. For years, the fact had merely made him envious, furious, bitter. Then later, after Odin told them, Loki had turned his anger on himself, and he had looked at Thor in wonder, in awe, in desperate need. But still he had been groping in the dark. Unsure why he lacked it, only grieving that it was so.

Now at last he feels like he sees. Thor is forever in the act of becoming worthy. It is in his soul.

And Loki, even if he tried to imitate his brother, tottering after him like an overeager child trying to repeat the actions of his elders, the attempt would be as awkward, as futile, as doomed. If it were otherwise, he would no longer be Loki.

An odd calm falls over him then, and he keeps quiet, saying nothing, hearing nothing but the rhythmic clatter of their mounts and the cries of birds in the nearby trees and the whistling of the wind.

*

The villages that are their destination are in a part of Asgard that he and his brother have not visited in years, and there is a sense of unfamiliarity as they finally arrive there on the third day. These places are mostly farming families and herdsmen; one could not be further from the soaring majesty of the City of Asgard. It is muddy little lanes and ramshackle huts nestled among green hills, patches of dense woods that seem little more than thickets allowed to grow untended for too many years.

No one recognizes their little company; there is no fanfare to greet them. But there is a sense of gloom and fright that makes them believe that the rumors were true.

At the single inn (nearly empty in the middle of the day, and full of shadows) they do find a man who is able to confirm the tale, telling them of livestock stolen and dwellings destroyed and neighbors gone missing. Of a threat that no one has seen, only the damage left behind.

Thor, looking earnestly distraught by the village’s plight, clasps the man’s arm and asks where the last attacks took place, that he might go and seek out the culprits.

*

The company finds the place just as night is falling. There is no mistaking it.

It stands not far from the ruins they found of a farmhouse, just as the villager described, in the foothills. What gives it away—among the grimness of it, sheer teeth of tall grey stone jutting out of the dirt, wind hissing through dry grasses, failing light casting shadows under a darkening overcast sky—is the great filthy sacks slumped against one of the boulders. The pile of sheep bones, picked clean and gnawed, by the ashy, greasy remains of a fire.

And, of course, the massive, shadowy shapes standing half-hidden in plain sight among the stones.

Loki, tugging his mount to a halt, takes in the sight in an instant. The four trolls. The tracks leading toward the village in the valley below, the other set returning.   

But Thor does not hesitate, barely pauses, swinging himself down from the saddle and striding forward with the hammer held low in his grasp in a quiet warning. He is so bold he seems to gleam, the only point of light in all the landscape. Loki shakes himself and follows, rushing to keep no more than two paces behind him, aware of the others doing likewise just behind them, fanning out to either side. He hears the metallic whisper of blades being drawn, shields being lifted.

The trolls, of course, are waiting for them.

Thor stops a short distance from them and raises his voice. "I will give you one chance to surrender, you low brutes, before I show you your mistake in attacking the folk of Asgard.”

His grip on the hammer shifts as they size him up. They are several heads taller than him and several times as broad, and they grin at each other, ugly and heavy-browed, long teeth protruding from their mouths. They are dangerous fighters. Loki knows this; they are cleverer than they look and they are hard to wound and have no compunction about fighting dirty.

One of them, perhaps the leader, grunts in reply. "Only mistake we made was waiting so long.”

"So be it,” Thor answers, raising the hammer at his side.

And with a rush and a cry, the battle begins.

Loki is suddenly glad of all the time he and Thor spent training together—he has sworn to himself that he will guard his brother well during this battle, but as Thor hurls himself against the foe Loki finds it difficult to keep up, despite all his preparation.

Thor fights with a new ferocity, exuding power as his entire body moves with each swing, as if he and the hammer are one. The great mass of metal catches the last daylight as it arcs through the air, and he yells at the same moment, bringing lightning down.

The blow lands on the lead troll, Mjolnir striking his armored side with a heavy smack, and the blanched white of electricity breaks the gloom at the same moment. It bathes all Loki’s vision, leaving afterimages as it passes. Loki blinks them away, and they fight on.

Little clusters of battle—each of the trolls fights three or four Asgardian warriors, and all around are cries of effort and of rage, trollish roars, the sounds of clashing weapons.

But something is wrong. The foreboding that Loki felt is heavy in the air.

The hairs on the back of his neck rise, and at once he knows.

Four little clusters of battle. Four trolls all occupied in these fights, and surely the Asgardians will defeat them in the end, beating them back across the realm’s edge if nothing else.

Four trolls… but there were five sets of tracks…  

Loki looks up almost too late, spotting the troll atop one of the grey stone teeth just before it leaps, aimed to land mere feet from Thor’s back. Nearly on top of him. There is a heavy cudgel in its hand, deadly looking. One unseen blow from behind and the tide of the battle will turn, one blow—

And it all becomes so starkly, terribly simple.

Loki has time to see what must be done and decide to do it. Time to realize that he will most likely die if he does, and time to feel a rush of relief at the thought. Of joy.

This is what he has been waiting for. This is the answer he had been unable to see. He needs to do something to make up for his own faults, which he has proved unable to change. He needs to do something that will matter, and here is his chance. He can wipe it all clean, he can save his brother, and finally his life will be worth something. Maybe he will even be mourned.

He wonders—stupidly, childishly—if Thor will miss him. If Thor will weep.

He has time also for a moment of cowardly fear, wondering how badly it will hurt, being killed.

But it is all so simple, and he knows what he must do, and he is already moving to do it.

All he can do is act, dread in his chest and panic and determination and desperate loyalty, shoving Thor out of the way and taking the blow that was meant for him.

It hurts more than he would have imagined, blinding white and tasting of metal.

But only for a moment.

*

There is darkness. Silence. Absence.

And then noise, the humming clatter pierced with a single voice, a single cry. Something jostling him, the pain rising as his body is lifted and held. He groans.

"Loki!”

The pain is everywhere, fuzzy and confusing. It hurts in his head, his chest, his limbs, in every cell in his body. He tastes blood welling up in his throat, feels it bubbling up when he breathes. Breathing hurts. Something scrapes and cracks when he tries. His lungs don’t want to fill.

It is strange to hear weeping—he wonders if it’s him, but it can’t be. That would surely hurt even worse.

A tickling on his face, like droplets falling on his skin.

“Loki… wake up. Please, Loki. Loki...”

Thor’s voice. Thor cradling him close. The sounds around them are falling quiet, and Loki isn’t sure why.

Just opening his eyes takes an effort that’s almost beyond him, and he cannot focus them, staring up at the golden halo smudged with ruddy shadows that must be his brother.

He hears a choked sob, and Thor pleads with him to fight, to stay, saying that they will have him to a healer very soon and he will be well, as long as he holds on.

Loki wants to tell his brother everything, want to apologize for dying and vow his love. But it’s strange, how far away everything seems. How his thoughts flit away almost as he has them. They scatter, gather together again in the past, in every glow of warmth he has ever felt, and the source of all of them. He’s glad Thor is there.

“I wish I…  could have deserved you…”

Loki doesn’t recognize the faint, ragged whisper as his own voice. He can barely piece together his own senses, the pain and the light and the disorientation.

“Loki,” he can hear his brother’s voice breaking, and that hurts even more. He forces out a few more words. Trying to comfort him. To make Thor understand.

“I want this,” he says. Insists. Tastes copper and wants to spit but can’t. “It’s alright… I’m… I’m ready… This is what has to happen. I want this...”

For some reason, Thor’s grip on him tightens and Loki feels a fresh shower of droplets falling on his face, hears harsh breaths. He’s not sure when the storm began.

"Don’t say that,” Thor says, sounding angry. Almost afraid. "It’s not. You don’t. You’re going to be well. I swear it.”

But Loki has ceased to be able to make sense of the words, only gazing up at his magnificent, beloved brother as everything else fades into the background. The pain and the noise and the way the colors are leaching out of the world around the edges of his vision.

The last thing he feels is a tremor that could be the ground shaking apart or could be a shudder in the arms that hold him.

And then there is no more time and he has no more strength.

And he lets go.

*

Chapter Text

Thor watches his brother sleep, and there is a strange dread welling up in him.

It has been three nights since that terrible day when he held his brother’s limp form in his arms after a fight that cannot even be called a battle, and was sure at any moment his brother would be taken from him forever. Three nights—mostly spent in a state of shock, watching and weeping as the healers in this village worked over a pale, still body on their cot, and then after Odin arrived, piloting a humming craft with a grey wanderer’s cloak over his shoulders, white hair wind-blown, Thor had let himself be ordered away to wait as the Allfather took over the task of healing his younger son’s broken form.

In the next room, unable to rest, Thor had felt nothing but terror and grief, not able to gather himself enough for self-recrimination. His thoughts were an endless stream of pleas that he hoped the Norns would heed.

Loki could not die. Loki could not die, no matter that he said he was prepared for it—but no, that was not what he said, and Thor’s mind rebelled: Loki had said he wanted to die, and there had been something in his eyes, some hollow gleam, that had struck Thor cold and made him clutch tighter.

Loki could not die.

When the door is drawn open again, light streaming out and Odin casting a long shadow in the middle of it, Thor lurches to his feet.

“Is he…?”

Odin’s eye narrows. “Tell me, my son, is this what you intended when you decided to take this matter into your own hands in defiance of your king?”

Thor blinks and stammers. “I did not defy you… you hadn’t said I could not… but that does not matter! Is my brother still alive?”

His father gives a furious scoff. “Do I have to ban you from doing anything I have not explicitly allowed, or will you deign to use your head now and then?”

But Thor can barely hear him. He feels himself swaying where he stands. “Is Loki dead?” he demands again, voice shaking.

Only then does his father take pity and answer.

“No. I have pulled him back from that threshold at least a pace or two, though it is up to him to find his way back to us now.”

Thor sobs with relief, sinking down again on legs gone too weak to hold him.

It is a great and unexpected mercy that his father does not continue to berate him in that moment, instead standing nearby while he sobs helplessly into his folded arms, then placing a hand upon Thor’s shoulder.

“The healers here will attend to him in the night. You may rest, if you can,” Odin says after some time.

Thor lifts his face again. “I want to see him. Please?”   

The line of Odin’s mouth twists, but he nods. “Very well.”

Thor spends the rest of the night at his brother’s bedside, holding his fragile, thin hand to his own cheek and weeping against it.

Loki had very nearly died, because of him.

*

Thor has far too much time over the coming days. Far too much time to think, far too much time for his vision to clear and for things that he had not seen to make themselves apparent to his eyes.

He finds himself remembering over and over again the way Loki looked at him as he lay dying. The things he said, and the look on his pale, bloodied face as he said them.

Something is not well with his brother and perhaps has not been well for a very long time.

And from there it all begins falling into place in a horrifying cascade of realizations.

Thor had believed it was all a game they were playing together—albeit a strange and satisfying game that sometimes bled into the rest of their lives—but as he thinks of it in this new light he begins to believe that it was not a game to Loki. He begins to believe that Loki meant every word, every action.

A year, more or less, since Thor first lifted the hammer, since Odin told them his decision. A year in which Loki had behaved as his servant, secretly, striving desperately to please him. A year in which he had enjoyed that new flavor to their relationship, one that he had never tasted before and threw himself into sampling with enthusiasm.

And all the while, Thor had not noticed anything amiss. Every time Loki asked to be hurt, Thor had believed his excuses. And he had not noticed all the ways in which Loki’s behavior had altered outside of their games, things changing so quickly in his own life that it had not occurred to him to wonder. It had not occurred to him to see the strangeness in it.

And it had ended with Loki lying in his arms, blood welling from the corners of his mouth, hopelessness in his eyes, darkness coming down.

The tears flow anew onto Thor’s cheeks with every realization, and through the haze of them he gazes upon his sleeping brother’s face.

He hopes Loki will wake soon. He hopes he will have a chance to make things right between them.

*

Eventually Loki does wake, and Thor is there.

Loki’s eyes open, and almost at once his face twists in a grimace of pain, and Thor is shouting for their father, for the healers, someone to ease his brother’s agony.

Odin appears beside him, puts a hand to Loki’s brow, murmurs words that Thor cannot catch but they make Loki’s breathing slow from the frantic gasping that it was to a slower, more even pace. Easier.

Loki’s eyes flit from one face to the other, widening, and then it seems consciousness is too much for him, for he makes a soft, confused sound and slips under again.

*

The second time, the Allfather and the pair of village healers have weighted Loki’s bed with so many pain-easing spells that Thor can almost feel them himself.

This time Loki’s eyes open slowly, sluggishly.

“Loki!” Thor cries, excited, leaping up from where he was waiting in the uncomfortable chair next to the cot.

Loki smacks dry lips and Thor helps him to take the tiniest sip of water, after which Loki’s head flops back against the pillow, and he takes several more minutes of slow, measured breathing before he attempts to speak.

“Did I… did I dream that Father was here?”

Thor shakes his head. “No, you didn’t. He was the one who healed you. At least mostly. After the village healers here had kept you alive until he arrived.”

And he watches as Loki absorbs this news. There is something strange about his reaction, though—or his lack of one. Loki’s eyes don’t meet his; they stare off into the distance, as if seeing something else entirely, and after a very long time he sighs heavily and turns his head away.

Thor feels his heart thumping in fear, and he grabs Loki’s hand where it lies limp atop the blanket folded neatly across his chest. “Loki?” Thor says again, pleading.

He sees Loki’s throat bob as he swallows. “I’m sorry.”

His voice is an almost silent rasp of misery, and the sound of it frightens Thor further.

“For what? It is my fault that this happened… I am the one to be blamed, I dragged you with me into this mess, and you… you saved me.” Thor knows he’s babbling and cannot stop, watching Loki’s brow twist, needing it to smooth again. “You were so brave, my brother, I will never be able to repay…”

Loki’s eyes are screwed shut and Thor halts only when tears begin to drip from them.

Thor wants to speak to him of the rest. The things he believes he has grasped about all that has happened between them in the last year, but he cannot make himself do it. In this little room—with Odin and the village healers and everyone else waiting just outside, with Loki’s jaw clenched so that the muscle at the joint leaps every few seconds, with his brother’s body still battered and his bones still broken—he does not think he should.

But he is now more certain than ever that Loki is not well and that they must speak of it. He must find a way to make his brother speak to him honestly, and he must do whatever it takes to help him.

For now, though, Thor stays and watches over his brother, letting him hold his silence if he wishes. Attends to his needs and does not try to press for anything.

Loki allows it, letting himself be moved about like a doll to be bathed with damp cloths (though he does sigh with what seems like relief when he is clean, and Thor smiles at the familiarity, his fastidious brother). Loki does not say when he is hungry but he allows himself to be fed a few mouthfuls at a time of porridge or broth, obediently swallowing when Thor tells him, his eyes still distant, empty.

Thor’s happiness that his brother is alive is mingled with a growing frantic certainty that his brother is broken. That the breaking happened under his own eyes without his noticing. And that his healing is far, far away.

*

Chapter Text

Two weeks later, Loki is almost entirely well, in body. And he is even putting on a better show of it otherwise, but now Thor knows what he is looking for, and he cannot fail to see the signs.

When Odin declares that Loki is well enough to travel, Thor watches as his brother tries to insist that he ought to ride with the rest of the company, that he needs no special treatment—and he sees Loki blanch when he is told that the rest of the company were ordered to ride home days ago and took Thor and Loki’s mounts with them. That the only way now is on the skiff with Odin. Loki’s mouth moves slightly as he is told that anyway he will surely be more comfortable—that the jostling of even a palfrey would surely ache in his scars, for a time.

He watches Loki’s face grow resigned, and then as he controls it, giving Odin a tense, grateful nod.

“You’re surely right, Father,” Loki murmurs.

Of course, Thor is to accompany them as well, and he isn’t precisely looking forward to it either.

And his worries are confirmed only a few minutes into the journey, when Odin sets the tiller and turns from the helm, pacing back toward where Loki sits gazing out at the countryside streaming past beneath them.

Thor’s fingernails are digging into the flesh of his palms, and he can do nothing.

“My sons,” Odin says, looking wryly down at the two of them—Thor’s own shoulders are tensed and he can see Loki fidgeting likewise. “I think we must use this time for a discussion, much as I can see you dislike the idea.”

Loki nods. Thor is too on edge with dread even to move.

“Would either of you like to explain to me how this occurred? I believed I had raised two young men capable of thinking before they act, yet now I see perhaps I was wrong. This adventure of yours did not happen in an instant. So how is it that neither of you raised a single doubt along the way? Hm?”

Thor turns to look at his brother and wonders if—if Loki indeed did doubt and simply did not say so. If Loki obeyed because he thought it was a command.

(A treacherous part of Thor’s mind whispers: wasn’t it? Did you not enjoy commanding him? Was it truly just a game? Thor squirms and clenches his fists in his lap at the thought.)

When Odin looks to Loki as well, eyebrow raised, Thor feels his own hackles rising. He has not told Odin his guesses of the state of Loki’s mind—he knows his brother would find it an unforgivable breach of trust, a horrendous violation, and anyway he could never explain to their father how it is that he knows—but Thor suddenly feels betrayed that Odin cannot see it. That he cannot see that Loki is in no fit state to be criticized right now.

“Loki? It is difficult for me to believe you saw nothing wrong with your brother’s notion. You are usually wiser than that.”

Loki visibly shrinks at the words, shoulders pulling in even further, head bowing in shame.

“Undoubtedly you did not expect such a painful outcome as there was, but do not tell me it never occurred to you that you should perhaps inquire with me about concerns affecting Asgard’s security before taking matters into your own hands. So why is it that you went along with Thor’s foolishness instead of protesting?”

Thor can take no more. “Father, stop! It is not his fault.”

Odin rounds on him, then, and there is fury blazing bright in his eye, but his voice is calm. “I am quite aware of where the majority of the blame lies, my heir, but I have also quite recently been awoken with the news that my younger son was on the verge of death, through his own and his brother’s stupidity. If you think my words now cruel, perhaps that will serve as a reminder next time and we can all avoid ever having to suffer such a thing again.”

Face burning, jaw clenched, Thor forces himself to calm, to answer in something less than a yell. “I know. But we have already learned that lesson.” He thinks of how it felt to clutch his brother’s limp body to his chest. A few hard words from his father could never impress themselves upon him the way that moment had. “Loki especially has already suffered enough. If you must berate someone, berate me.”

Odin scoffs, but it is Loki who speaks, a mumble barely to be heard over the wind.

“No, brother. Father is right, and I deserve his words.” His eyes are rimmed in red, though the fast breeze of their travel has dried whatever tears there were.

Thor wants to go to his side, to comfort him, but Loki wraps arms around himself and turns his face back toward the countryside fleeting by, and Thor is left sitting there feeling helpless.

When he turns to see Odin’s reaction, he finds the Allfather looking from one to the other of his sons, as if this turn of the conversation has pulled him up short. He frowns at whatever he sees in them, brow twisting.

“We will be home soon,” he says after a long silence. “Your mother will be very glad to see that you are both still in one piece.”

And then he retreats to the helm, the golden tiller moving slightly under his hand.

*

Home.

They arrive, thankfully, to little notice. It seems the word of the disaster has not spread far.

It is bad enough facing their mother, who embraces them both, tears shining unshed in her eyes. Thor watches, sick with guilt, as Loki murmurs apologies and averts his gaze from hers, and he realizes that whatever is broken in Loki, he no longer finds comfort even in Frigga’s unquestionable love.

And then after Thor helps his brother back to his chambers, carrying his bag for him and being near in case he is needed, Thor stands there and allows it as Loki closes the door in his face.

“I’m sorry, brother. I’m simply tired. I think I should sleep,” Loki says, and though his voice is oddly steady, he does look exhausted, the skin around his eyes sunken and sallow. The light within his eyes dull and distant.

“Will you come see me after you wake, then? Please?”

Loki nods, yawning, and Thor resolves to wait.

*

He tries. He truly does. He waits as long as he can—he gives Loki the rest of the day and all of the night, and much of the following day, though he begins to worry before the evening is through, irrational fears (or perhaps not as unreasonable as they should be) shivering through him.

Thor almost lost his brother, and now he is terrified that it will somehow happen again if he does not do something.

When he knocks on Loki’s door, part of him expects no answer—expects fears he cannot name to materialize, expects his nightmares to flow out into the day.

Instead, he is quickly faced with the sight of his brother, hair mussed and clothes disheveled and eyes half closed, as if he truly has been sleeping for the last twenty hours.

“Brother,” Thor says, looking him up and down—Loki is only half dressed, really, in soft breeches with a robe over his shoulders. He has it only tugged closed, not tied, and Thor can see the new red scars peeking out from beneath where they crawl across his shoulders and chest. His eyes are drawn to those chaotic marks, not wanting them to be there, unable to ignore them. He swallows. “Please say you will let us speak now. We need… I need to talk to you.”

Loki fidgets momentarily, but he nods and steps back, allowing Thor inside.

Thor has spent the whole day thinking about this, how to broach the topic when at last he had a chance, because… it all feels fraught, now. He has only his guesses of what has gone wrong, but he knows that his brother is unwell, and he fears that it is his own fault, and he fears that anything he does now will only make it worse.

He fears wrapping his brother in his arms and embracing him, as he wishes he could do, and he fears kissing him, and he fears saying the wrong things or asking the wrong questions. He fears that he is wholly unprepared for whatever it is that Loki might tell him, and he fears he will have no recourse if Loki will tell him nothing at all. Thor’s heart hammers and his breath is shaky and something flutters in his belly as he agonizes, trying to put together the words to begin.

Loki, on the other hand, does not look nervous. He still looks exhausted. The red scars look painful, but there is no pain in his expression.

Thor has a sudden, vivid recollection of the way Loki always used to kiss him when they first became lovers. The strange defiance that always flickered across his face right before Loki pressed his lips to Thor’s. It was yet another thing that Thor had fallen in love with about his brother, though he did not understand it; not understanding Loki had never kept Thor from loving him.

But Thor cannot remember the last time he saw that defiant look. And right now, it seems impossible that it was ever there. Loki does not truly look present. It seems greater than exhaustion, greater than the withdrawn moods that Loki has sometimes fallen into over the course of their lives.

He watches Thor, but Thor cannot see his brother in those weary eyes.

Thor can hold his tongue no more, no matter his peril. The words come pouring out.

“Loki, why did you say you wanted to die?”

Loki blinks and looks down. He stutters and fumbles for a reply. “Oh… I… I only meant that I was glad to be able to save you. I was glad to sacrifice myself for you. I didn’t want you to blame yourself.”

They are words that would be all too easy to believe, crafted to appeal to the love between them. Thor wants to believe that it is true. That all his fears have just been a misunderstanding, words misspoken by a delirious, dying man.

But he knows better. He can hear that in the dullness of Loki’s voice. He can see it in his posture, the way his shoulders sag on his frame.

“That’s not what you meant. I know it,” Thor says. “I know you’re not well. I know something must have happened, and the more I think back on it the more I think it must have been when Father first told us. At the time I thought you must be mad at me for it, but you told me you weren’t…”

Loki cuts him off with a slight shake of the head. “I wasn’t. I’m not. There was nothing to be angry with you for.”

Thor takes another breath, and he knows that Loki may not be lying to him, yet it still isn’t true. “Not angry, then, but you were upset. You weren’t well, and you didn’t tell me.”

Loki shakes his head again and now he will not meet Thor’s gaze.

Thor continues. “Please, brother… you must let me help you. You must tell me what’s wrong, you must tell me what it is that is hurting you so badly. Please let me…”

“You can’t help,” Loki answers. “There is nothing to be done.”

His voice is so calm, so quiet, and frustration rises in Thor’s veins.

“There is always something that can be done!”

Loki’s brows draw together as he shrugs.

“That was what I thought once. But it’s not true. When we were young, I always just wanted to be your equal. Everyone let me think it was possible, for years, so I tried. The thing that happened was that I finally grasped the truth: that I can’t. That I never could have.” Loki’s shoulders rise and fall in a heavy breath. “And you’re right. I was upset about that for a long time. But I’m not anymore.”

There is so much in this that Thor’s head whirls in the onslaught, so much that he can’t make sense of in Loki’s thoughts. He latches onto the first thing that he can comprehend.

“Why would it not be possible? We are equals.”

Loki gives him what might perhaps have been meant as a smile, but it is far too frail and false. “We’re not. I should have known it long before Father told us, but I didn’t.”

It takes a great deal more explaining—drawn out word by painstaking word, with all of Thor’s persistence required to make Loki keep talking, to prevent him from curling up into himself and shutting Thor out completely—until Thor truly understands.

Loki thinks Odin’s decision was a foregone conclusion and he was the only one left in the dark. Loki has spent the last year thinking that he is in some way so clearly inadequate that he could never have been the one chosen for the throne, and that everyone but Thor deceived him about that fact for his entire life. And he will not listen to any of Thor’s protests that it surely is not so.

Thor’s first impulse is to grab Loki’s hand and try to pull him to his feet, insisting that they must go to Father right that moment and ask, find out the truth—because it is utterly impossible that it is as Loki believes. But Loki refuses, turning to stone in Thor’s grasp, face blank and pale, and Thor cannot, will not force him. And even if he would override his brother’s will like that, he strongly suspects that Loki would not believe what he heard, not even in a vow from Odin’s lips. His brother has always been stubborn, has always trusted his own mind over others, and Thor has always loved that in him. He cannot fault him for it now.

Thor’s next instinct is to tell Loki that if the throne will come between them, if such a thing has hurt him so, then Thor will not have it either. He will abdicate, and let Father choose whomever else he wishes.

Loki stares at him in shock, but then his eyes fall. “If I were in your place, I wouldn’t. Thus that is only more proof that Father is right. Proof of how much better you are.”

Thor tries to argue that if Loki believes Thor to be so much better, then he surely Thor’s opinion must hold some weight for him.

“And I love you, brother. I think you are equally worthy. Does that not matter?”

That gets only a weak smile.

“You would believe that. But you have forgiven me so many wretched things. I know how much you will forgive. You loving me does not make me good.”

They go around and around, with Loki answering every challenge Thor can think up, evading his logic and shrugging off his insistence. Eventually it becomes simply too frustrating. Thor feels his own anger rising, knows he should leave and return when he can control himself. But he does not want to stop trying, not even for a little while. He also does not want to confront Loki with anything that seems like an accusation, anything that seems like a demand.

They began this conversation upon the long, cushioned seat on which Loki used to often be found reading; they have gotten up to pace the floor of Loki’s chamber whenever one or the other grew too agitated or needed a moment to breathe.

And now he surges forward, tangles his hand in his brother’s hair, and kisses him, and he feels Loki give in.

Loki’s lips taste of salt, and it makes Thor’s heart clench, for he can remember drinking Loki’s tears so many times when they lay together. He can remember being fascinated to see them sneaking down his face as Loki fucked him, and leaning forward to lick them.

It always made his erection strain, because he had caused such an outpouring of emotion, where before Loki hated for anyone to see him cry. Had hated for anyone to know he was capable of it.

It had made Thor feel powerful, and had made him feel closer to his brother, that they could share this. That Loki was so open only with him.

Thor feels oddly betrayed by that now, and angry at himself that he did not see, that it was so easy for him to be convinced that nothing was wrong, and he wants to make Loki listen to him now.

And for just a moment, the mad thought occurs to him that he can. Loki has wanted to subordinate himself to Thor, but Thor had not understood. And now he does. The thought of having wielded such power over his brother unwittingly, wrongly… it makes Thor feel ill. But surely now that he knows, it would not be wrong to wield it for better ends, to help him.

He knows the thought is mad, but he feels so lost that he cannot stop himself.

He kisses Loki and then he tightens his grip in soft, black hair and tugs him away to look at him, holding his own chin up as if he were still ignorant and imperious, and he tries to command Loki to heed his words. He reminds Loki that Thor is his king, and that Loki must obey him, and that what Thor demands is that he think more highly of himself. That he believe in his own worth. That he listen when Thor vows his love. Thor grits his teeth and tries to fill his voice with command, stiffens his shoulders and feels like this is a battle, one that he must win. Fighting against whatever it is that has made Loki believe so many wretched things. Loki’s hair twists around his fingers, soft and dark as a shadow.

But the reaction he receives is only silence. That same dull emptiness buried deep in Loki’s unblinking eyes. Anger would have been better. Bitterness, rage, anything. Anything but this look as if his little brother has closed up into himself and nothing Thor can do or say will reach him.

Thor tastes the salt of his own tears as they begin to flow down his face.

He doesn’t know what to do.

He wants to hold his brother, but he cannot bear to think that Loki would not feel the strength of his love, so instead he stumbles back, sinks down, puts his head in his hands and sobs.

He’s afraid as he has never been before, and racked with guilt, and he doesn’t know what to do to make any of it better. He fears that it is as Loki said and there is nothing he can do.

His shoulders tremble and the heaviness of his tears makes his face hot and makes his nose run and he feels like a little child as he cries. Except when he was a child he could never have imagined such grief as this. With his brother there beside him—on some level that would have made everything alright. Once it was all that simple.

Thor is startled when he feels a hand come to rest on his shoulder, lightly, but he does not move. Not even as he feels the seat dip beside him, his brother’s arms wrapping around him. Loki leans into him, until their heads are touching, and then Thor feels the little motions that mean his brother is crying as well. Crying with him.

Thor gasps out a breath in relief and repositions so that he can wrap one of his arms around Loki, and their other hands grip tight together between them and for a while, they simply sit there, hurting together and soothing each other.

After a long time, Loki sniffles and pulls back a little so that he can wipe at his face with his hand, and Thor has a chance to gaze at his face. Puffy and red-splotched as his own surely is, but his eyes… green and lovely, and most of all it is Loki looking back at him, present and near, and Thor is reminded of the way things were between them long ago.

“Tell me how things were for you this past year,” Thor asks while they look at each other, still touching, still leaning close.

Loki’s lips tremble, and Thor can feel the tension in him, the uncertainty like a precipice.

But then he does as Thor asks, and they talk for hours, Loki telling him many things he had secretly thought and felt and feared, shame written in the flush of red on his cheeks visible even in the dimmed light of the room, but he speaks, and Thor listens. And Thor answers, refusing to let himself deny anything Loki felt, refusing to insist that he should not feel it because it was not that way. Thor cries many times, hurting for his brother, for his own unknowing hand in that pain. Loki cries as well. They wipe each other’s tears away.

Thor does tell his brother how much he needs him, how much he loves him, how much he values him. When Loki tells him of his terror that Thor would one day grow tired of him and send him away, or send him away out of shame, he grips his brother’s hand tighter and vows that neither one of those things will ever happen.

“I need you, Loki. You are my brother and my best friend. I will always need you more than anyone else, no matter what happens between us. Please don’t ever make me be without you.”

Loki squirms as if it is uncomfortable to consider such a thought. As if being needed and wanted and loved feels strange to him. As if he cannot fathom it all together.

Thor vows to himself that he will see that change.

Some time later, Loki gazes at him with a contemplative look. “Am I still… more than those things, as well?” he asks.

Thor’s heart seems to stutter. He hadn’t dared to wonder. “If you still want to be.”

Loki nods, fervent, and their kisses taste like tears, though Thor is no longer sure whose. Loki's tongue tracing against his lips and Thor opening to him, wanting, loving, needing. 

A little while later, Thor helps his brother strip off his robe and climb into bed, and he kisses his brother’s scars, and they lie together on their sides, each touching the other, aimless and comfortable, then with greater intent, soothing away the last ache with pleasure.

Their kisses turn breathless before they turn languid, and their breaths fall into rhythm as they fall together into sleep.

*

Chapter Text

After recent events, Odin calls the two in to speak with them, and he tells them that he has decided to hold off any plans to announce Thor as heir.

“I think you both need far more time to grow into your responsibilities. And longer still before you will truly be ready to take them on.”

Thor cannot disagree, and in truth he had been expecting to hear such words, but it is the furthest care from his mind. A month before, becoming king had been the goal of all his future. Now, it hardly matters. What he cares about is making sure that he will still have his brother when he gets there. That he will still have Loki, alive and whole and well.

Afterward, Thor waits until they are alone and then asks Loki if he is glad for the delay.

Loki gives a shrug. “I suppose. Your friends know already. Many people do by now.”

Thor cannot deny it, and he looks back with chagrin on his own carelessness in letting that truth slip out. But there is nothing to be done about it now, and Loki also insists that he will be alright.

Together they ease back into their lives, and Thor is well aware that Loki still does not fully believe. He still catches his brother deferring to him out of habit, or flinching all too often at little things around them, things Thor would never have noticed—and he is sure they don’t mean what Loki believes they mean, yet Thor does what he can in the aftermath to bolster him again. Loki does not like to have any fuss made, and only rarely does he even wish to speak of it. But Thor quickly determines that Loki is most at ease when they are away from any eyes that might judge him and find him wanting. Hunting trips taken, just the two of them. Evenings spent reading in Loki’s chambers, or going to watch various recitations and entertainments at which they are merely part of the crowd in a half-darkened hall, anonymous and unnoticed, and then return home to sip hot mulled wine while Thor draws his clever brother out, nudging him into telling at length some history or interpretation that Thor would never have guessed.

After a while, Thor begins to see the spark coming back to Loki’s eyes. Smiles coming more readily and earnestly to his mouth. After a while, Loki is no longer quite so tense even in company—merely more like his old sharp-tongued self.

Thor vows that he will not be so blind again.

When they make love, Loki still often wants Thor to push him around, to command him, and sometimes Thor even does so. Thor will pin his brother down if he wishes, ride him while Loki gazes up with reverence, kiss him in the aftermath. Or Thor will hurt him in the ways that make him moan, that make him whimper and plead for more, because sometimes that is the only thing that makes the nervous tension once again leave his brother’s form.

But no longer will Thor taunt him, not even in jest.

Instead he tells Loki how he wants it, and then he tells him how good he is at it. How no one else could please him this way. How much Thor needs what only he can give.

Thor grins at the way Loki blushes in response and the way it spurs him on and brings an edge of frantic pleasure to his actions.

Eventually, Thor thinks, he will succeed and his brother will be wholly well again.

*

Weeks pass, enough that Loki’s scars begin to fade, and still everything to Loki feels like a haze. A blur. He is not sure how any of this happened.

Everything had been grey when he was brought home, almost as if he had gone blind. He had been in a deep fog for the whole trip back to the city, and as soon as they reached it he had felt terribly out of place. Everything was unfamiliar and strange; only closing the door of his chambers and locking it all out had helped.

And then he had been left in the silence, trying to sleep but finding himself unable. Pacing his floors, an emptiness inside that gnawed at him.

At some point, before dawn, he had gone out onto his balcony on silent steps and stared out at the landscape.

It was not razed. It was simply foreign, and he had not been able to bear the sight.

When he had pushed his brother out of the way of the troll’s cudgel, he had felt relief. Returning home once more had wiped that relief away, leaving him with an emptiness, a deep agitation that had been building toward something.

But then his brother had knocked on his door, interrupting a train of thought that he can no longer remember.

Loki can recall little of the conversation that followed either, but he remembers watching his brother release him and crumple as if he’d been stricken, as if Loki had failed after all to save him from a terrible blow. He remembers watching Thor sob like a child, and he remembers his own hesitation.

His brother was weeping for him. And all he had to do…

Loki’s resolve had broken, and he could no longer remember why it had seemed so important to hold himself aloof, to keep silent. Sinking down at Thor’s side had been all he had wanted to do in that moment. Trying helplessly to soothe him. Wanting things to be as they were again. Wanting his brother’s love, no matter whether he deserved it. Deserving did not matter. He wanted. He had never wanted anything more.

He remembers Thor asking what had been in his mind for the past year, and he remembers daring at last to pour out so many terrible things he had felt, almost quaking as he spoke, yet Thor never let go.

Loki never could have dreamed of this, of the warm place that they now share together somehow separate from the world around them. It is strange how much of a difference it makes, now that there is one other who knows his mind. One other he can go to when the feeling grows too hard, who will not shame him further for his weakness against it. One other who understands.

He still does not believe what Thor tells him, though. His perspective has not changed, and it still aches sometimes. The jolts of humiliation and self-loathing still catch him, still spear him through the breast. But Thor wants him not to suffer from it as he has been. And Thor has grown alarmingly skilled at spotting his moods, catching him when he begins to dwell upon it all again. When that occurs, Thor does his best to bring Loki out of himself and keeps him close.

So Loki tries.

Attempts to hide it better, since he does not want to disappoint his brother. Does not want Thor to see his efforts fail.

Attempts to heal, since that seems to be his king’s command.

… Loki isn’t sure which is his real aim. He’s not sure he can tell the difference; after a while he grows less certain that there is any. After a while, whatever remains of all that shattered hurt is hidden from sight, emerging only in the dark moments, in the stillness, the nights when sleep will not come. And if it can no longer be seen, is it truly there?

One night some months later, Loki dips his head where he lies upon Thor’s belly, listening to the sounds within and feeling that they are one flesh, while Thor’s fingers thread gently through his hair.

And it occurs to Loki that perhaps it should not matter if he cannot ever match up to Thor. Being second to Thor—but who could do any better? And no one else has him the way Loki does. No one else is even close enough for the comparison. Loki is his kin, his flesh, the one he grew and played and fought beside, the one who knows him best. His brother, and so much more than that.

No one else is as fortunate as he.

***