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Lore and Bait.

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No single being is permitted to traverse the universe.

But even without the sharp detection of Heimdall’s telescopic eyes, Thor is an obvious sight; an entity ambling across the stars with divine purpose, his body extended forwards. He has a general attitude of disregard for the rules, but this plan is poorly executed- and when a cosmic mass comes hurdling out of the universe, he is unprepared. The gaseous ball strikes him down onto the Bifrost.

Letting out a roar, Thor raises his arm and smashes Mjölnir’s head against the meteor.

The force splits the rock in half, breaking it into shards that scatter everywhere. He grunts and pushes the heavy core off him, hurdling it back the way it came. The titan forces mean little to him. He expects to barrel through the realms until he makes it home to Asgard, splintering any obstacles in his path.

It still burdens him how he can tear the cyclopean forces from his chest, and yet one thought, a single conception, cannot be thrust mightily from his body. Loki’s fingernails pry within the cavity of his ribs, and however hard Thor fights, he cannot shake him off.

-

Loki’s body shudders as he awakens on the grounds of Midgard; he feels stripped without the capes and crowns that always served to smother his pride.

Raw and exposed, his mind instantly starts to mitigate the situation. He wants to exonerate, to abolish this absurd feeling that he’s made an awful mistake. He yearns to indulge in the pesky notion of returning home. (Ah, but fact is, the Manor of Odin has ostracized him long since, and he is not welcome there anymore.)

Digging two fingers into the dirt, Loki grinds his jaw and thrusts himself up. The intensity of the movement (for a moment; he relies on moments) alleviates the burning in his ribs. With action, there is no purpose in harnessing childish avidity. He aims to use this as his fuel, realizing his only defense against sentimentality is anger.

Obeying, Loki closes his eyes, throwing his arms into his useless lap. His grasp is full of dirt, and the movement pours soil all over him, making him appreciate the touch of cool Earth and the sting of wind against his flesh. He was made for the cold, after all. His blood runs through veins of disguised ice, of blue blood which is rolling- no, tumbling into the heritage that he now knows doesn’t parallel Thor’s.

Loki weaves his fingers together and leans back, eyelids flickering in feigned peace. He embraces the frost of which he is made and calls out to it, begging for the power his race has coveted in Asgard. And it works; he feels his body dissolving into the air, becoming crystals of phosphorescent ice again. He hears his true realm accepting him, allowing his skin to turn cold.

And then a hot, electrifying mass comes hurdling out of the sky. It grabs him around the torso and stabs him into the Earth, making him gasp in one grand loss of concentration.

The ground rumbles violently, and the two brothers slice through the Earth in an upheaval of plants and gravel, denting the ground with their mobile shapes.

Loki doesn’t think that they’ll ever come to a complete stop, but inevitably they do, and he can again make out the faint sound of breath from his brother’s lips, panting against his chest. He wants to break away but his body is anchored into the dirt by exhaustion and deference, so Thor is the first to jump to his feet.

Brother’s body still glows gold, even through this film of darkness. Loki expects a lecture, a burst of defiance, but Thor just splits open into a triumphant smile, twisting Mjölnir around in his fist as a monument of victory.

Mouth gaping as his body arches up on the ground, Loki’s elbows wobble with the inability to hold his weight.

“I found you, brother,” he hears, and detects the gratification in Thor’s voice. The God’s face is alight with confidence and relief, marked by what look like remnants of battle. “I feared the worst, but you are safe. I may take you home now.”

And Thor, always being the older brother, extends an embracing arm that could effortlessly snap Loki’s body in half.

Loki knows that he should resist the ache in his arms and accept, with both hands, his brother’s offer. He recognizes that a simple gesture would result in his own homecoming, and that the Earth below him would be felt no longer. But he can only regard Thor with horror, his eyes widened in rejection.

It passes over the male’s face only for a moment, but Loki catches it: uncertainty. The extended hand momentarily wavers in the air, affected by the doubt that leads Thor to cock his head.

“Do you not understand, Loki?” he asks, advancing forward to take Loki in his grasp.

It takes a great deal of effort, but the male manages to raise his palm and smack Thor’s hand away, scrambling silently backwards, tripping over his own limbs.

He keeps his eyes on Thor’s body, monitoring the other’s movements. Thor lowers his arm and his fists clench in protest. “I have risked very much to salvage what is left of you, Loki,” he growls, asserting himself with a sharp step forward. “Now I am demanding that you come back home with me.”

“Thor.”

He speaks, and the weak words come out like smoke, illuminating the air in front of him. “I’m interested in remaining here.” He feins indifference, pressing his palm into the dirt behind him and raising his chin. “The home you speak of offers a kingdom for you, yet is no less than a prison through my eyes. Return home.” He narrows his eyes. “Tell everybody of my tragic death.”

He means it as a quip, but is inspired by his own malice.

“Tell them of your last heroic effort to save your dear brother,” he breathes, eyes locked on Thor’s wary regard. “Tell them that you reached out to save me, the deceitful outsider, but when I refused to grab for your hand, I was thus swept away into the outer reaches of the realms. Let them know how brave you were, and how the traitor you once called brother rejected your hand.”

Stop this.” Roaring, Thor steps heavily, shaking the ground beneath them. “You may not choose your kindred.”

Loki sighs and presses his head to the ground, letting his wrist hang limp in the air. “I am aware,” he dejectedly murmurs, turning his head so he can see the gelid veins that bulge from beneath his skin. “That is my conflict.”

From his brother comes another howl, and then his golden body becomes a beam of moving light, booming with desperate anger that sends Thor flying back into Asgard.

All at once, Loki is completely alone on the floor of a barren terrain. But he is where he belongs, and does not feel a single tremor for either of his “home”lands.

-

The nights pass like a kaleidoscope on Asgard: the colors change, the sceneries and bodies rotate, but Thor can only see them through a lens distorted by Loki’s absence. It’s like the fabric of the household has been unwoven, and the halls are empty without witticism; the libraries vacant without Loki throwing books into his lap, prompting “page 225, paragraph 3. Come, out loud now.” How be it that nobody else notices, he wonders.

Thor sighs through the ceremonies he’s trained for his entire life.

He kneels to the throne and recites verses of obligation and responsibility. He accepts feasts that are offered by visitors from the other realms and nods with them, reiterating his vows of protection. The only distraction that weighs his mind more than his brother is the helmet that’s placed upon his skull like a crown, gold and shimmering.

But even then, the royal symbol slips down his face and covers his eyes. Odin exhales and says, “Ah, well it should have been suspected that thing would not imperviously fit every heir. We shall find you a fitting one.”

Thor lifts the helmet off him and shakes his head, seeing his blurry portrait move in its reflection. “It suits me well, father,” he assures. He wishes to wield this crown as proof that rulers do not come in pre-designed shapes, and that the throne fits all bodies differently.

Turning from Odin’s wary eyes, he sets it in the corner of his room, amazed at how his entire life’s training can, and cannot be, amassed into this chunk of welded gold.

-

Loki has come to distinguish between heavy rains and thunderstorms.

The latter is inconsistent; misleading. Thunder shakes the Earth with the feasibility of a golden body slipping through the cracks in the sky. Loki always curls into himself when this happens, studying the electric slice of lightning and trying to make out the silhouette that always seems inevitable.

But his eyes strain, and Thor does not come back.

Loki can only sigh when the clouds open up and begin to pour down on him, a reprieve that drenches his flesh and allows him to enjoy the desolate cling of clothing to skin. These times allow him to thoroughly wash himself with his own penance for the ice within him which separates him from his once family. He is permitted a lugubrious yearning that he cannot fully experience during the false hopes of Thor’s presence.

So the times of rain- simple and isolated rain, allow him to feel truly alone.

Tonight, a drizzle has just ended, and Loki is trailing across the prairie ground, clutching his left elbow in a tight grip.

His black hair is matted back behind his ears, growing long and frayed around his shoulders. His whole body is weak, such that the strands whipping against his back tire him, but he wobbles forwards towards the Midgardian cave, a small grotto that parts the Earth tooth-by-tooth and offers him refuge from the many storms that shake the atmosphere. His body swells in relief when he finds it, and he stops to lean his head back and take it in through his nose, a sharp laugh cackling from his throat.

“Poor hunting?”

The deep voice comes from the opening of the cavern, the speaker’s dark skin only an outline in the all-black mouth.

Loki shivers against a half-smile. He hobbles forwards into cave’s opening and stands to the side of Atryx, facing the opposite direction. “Poor restraint,” he answers, pleased with the way this attack went. His body is tired and his mind is faltering, but there is a great deal of blood on his arms, worn as an emblem of victory.

Atryx lifts his beefy hand and wraps it around the side of Loki’s skull, gripping his head like a crown.

“Let’s see…” he mumbles, and then Loki’s memories suddenly flash before him, traveling through his brain in a millisecond. Through his own eyes, he views the elk charging through the wide-ranging plain, its thick muscles galloping, its horns thrust forward. He watches as he lifts two hands and grabs the creature by its antlers, pounding his feet into the dirt and heaving it over his shoulder.

He hears a snap, and the antlers dislodge, two branches that he now holds in his grip.

Whining, the elk writhes in its place, body beaten into the ground. Loki flicks both wrists and tosses the ripped-off antlers away, palms calloused and raw from all the training.

His gaze flickers from right to left, and a smile climbs onto his lips because it reminds him so much of the helmet he used to wear.

In the memory, Loki extends his palm and a form a matter begins to grow between his hands, hovering in the air between them. On either side, the antlers slowly dematerialize, its molecules combining into the thick spear that forms between Loki’s careful hands.

Then he propels his palms forward, carrying the weapon with his mind.

It hovers through the air and impales the elk through the heart, ending the beast’s struggle for life.

...

The male blinks as Atryx releases his hold on Loki’s head. Blood comes rushing back to his brain, but instead of dropping to the ground for oxygen, this time he allows the blurred spots to fizzle through him, letting the power of servility swoop through his swooning veins.

“You’re ready.”

The voice passes through his dizzy body, but Loki stretches and grins, his wince covered by a smirk. Oh, he knows he is.

-

Loki wears no armor into battle.

This is not a waging of glory, he has no flags or friends to wave on sticks. It is just his flesh, and the power beneath his flesh, that he can utilize now. His skin is speckled and reptilian, a chainmail all of its own. His eyelids close and Loki runs his hands down his body, releasing a sough into the air.

The world hangs dreadfully silent. Then he hears them appear.

Loki’s eye shoot open and he cries as he extends a palm towards the attackers.

A fistfull of boulders spurt out of the air, hitting the men head-on. Some fall off of their horses and plunge to the ground, where they are crushed back to dust by vibrating boulders that pile on top of the bodies. Others are hit in the head and knocked unconscious, or thrown backwards in the reverberation of the clash.

Loki laughs as he watches a soldier being trampled by his own horse; it almost breaks his concentration until he struggles another huge rock formation out of the ground and hurdles it at the next line of oncoming warriors, who keep solidifying from the ground.

He’s hardly had time to examine this realm; he wasn’t told where he was being sent, and likewise does not know if it is a friend or foe of Asgard. He sees at surface level: apocalyptic green stalactites that pierce through the ground, and plateaus of putrid brown slithering into the gas-lit sky. The ground itself is chalky, and dust flies everywhere when he moves his feet. The people are born just the way Atryx claimed; they are formed from particles of dirt and take on the shape of men, and unfortunately for them, are subject to the same anatomical inferiorities.

Feeling confident, Loki lessens the amount of strength he spends exerting on these inhabitants and directs his attention to the stalagmites.

Sending an array of razor-sharp stones, Loki hastens forward and raises his hand in the direction of one of the crystals, narrowing his eyes in concentration.

This is the toughest part of his training. He can manipulate elements and molecules fairly easily, and even finds it child’s play to transmute them into new shapes. But he still has trouble with teleporting objects, especially when they are bound tight to the Earth by nature.

Still, he must do it.

Loki himself is not capable of returning to Asgard, and Thor, whether he’s found an alternative to the Bifrost or not, has not arrived since the last encounter. However, Atryx brandishes a magic sufficient enough to carry him to any realm, and Loki badly needs that power. So he must carry out his teacher’s mission.

In the midst of his concentration, a creature jumps upon Loki and sinks its claws into his flesh.

Loki flinches and his mind wavers for a moment. There’s a terrifying second when he thinks he’s lost all control, but the panic itself makes him work even harder, and wheezing, he pries a cylinder of mineral from the terrain and suctions it into his hands.

The magic icicle safely in his palm, Loki’s entire body is pulled out of this world.

The attacker drops from his body and falls onto the ground, rolling back into a flurry of dust that whimpers as it billows upon the Earth.

...

Loki lands back on Midgard, his palms stretched open. The stalagmite glimmers an array microscopic colors, all at once. It’s quickly ripped from his hands, taken longingly into Atryx's palms.

His body wounded and teetering, Loki looks up to meet the shaded eyes of the wizard who has been training him in this realm. The man’s intentions matter not, for it is the prize that Loki commences for.

Atryx nods and snaps his fingers.

Suddenly, a mass of rippling fabric appears inches above Loki’s arms and falls into his still-outstretched hands. Loki lets out a whimper, and his head collapses to bury his face in the jacket, forcing the intoxicating scent through all his senses.

Thor’s fleece, in return for the mineral. Loki stays with his head swimming in the clothing, but hears Atryx speak.

“I have but few remaining tasks for you, Loki,” the voice booms, sturdy and promising. “Then you shall be granted the power to return to Asgard.”

Eyes still immersed in the jacket, Loki nods. He wants to be on Asgard now, but he will accept the remaining steps needed to get there. It’s not a nuisance.

He had forgotten what Thor smelled like.

-

Thor hastens to sleep at night, weary from the contracts, the contractors, the technical rules and basic codes of chivalry. His training has intensified so as to make him into multi-facets; he’s learning to be an effective commander, a mentor, a politician, and peace-keeper... He must flex to fit so many things at once, yet all for a single crown. At times, he feels grateful that this is his own burden, for he not only is confident in his ability to take on the excessive loads of work, but also because he knows what the exertion of stress does to his brother- and however many times Loki’s claimed he wants the throne, Thor knows that beyond the concept of power, there is little enlightenment to behold in it.

Rolling in the darkness, Thor catches the gleam of light on gold. The coronation is approaching, though the crown does not feel any warmer.

These night, Thor often feels as if there is presence nearby. His actions do not feel concealed, so he holds his body inert, trying to pass into the morning where he can see the room around him. The days grow closer, and the unsettling feeling only augments.

...

Thor is hunched over a table in the library, his chest pressed against its wooden edge as he furiously formulates and copies appeals on a decorated stack of paper. His ink constantly needs to be re-dipped, but the words travel through his hands so fast that he often has to bolden the gray scratches after his thought has been composed.

He signs his name at the bottom and flips this particular sheet over, placing it atop the pile of papyrus he has already completed. His mind is filled to the brink with struggling hope, and he’s barely disrupted when he gains a visitor.

The library’s door creaks as it opens behind him.

“Thor.”

Frigga enters the library and approaches her son, attentively watching as he grabs another sheet, (blank except for the blue-and-gold swirls printed around it), and begins to rewrite the words he’s instilled in his memory all morning.

She sighs and drops her hands on his shoulders, gently squeezing them.

“I know you hope this will bring him home,” she comforts, bending her slender neck to read Thor’s words. He is sending out messages to every corner of each realm, asking for information about Loki- or better, urging them to write back if they’ve seen him so that his whereabouts will be known.

Thor speeds through another letter. “The coronation takes place but five days,” he answers, scrambling to fix a lettering error. “Whatever illness plagues my brother’s heart, it will not be a true ceremony unless my entire family is present.”

Frigga forces herself to exhale and lets go of Thor, gliding to the side of the table. She plucks the quill from Thor’s hand and grows aware of her own remorse, eyes cast down in apology.

“Loki is not free,” she reveals, clasping her hands together. “Odin still must impart justice so as to punish him for what he’s done.”

At this, Thor rises, stiffening his body in rejection. “And is exile not enough?”

Wary, his mother shakes her head. They both know that Loki’s fall to Midgard was incidental, and does not encumber the inevitable punishment.

“At your crowning,” she asks carefully, “Do you truly want to look upon your brother in chains?”

Thor averts his eyes and drops back into the chair. He stares at the lines in front of him, because they offer him more than he can have.

-

It has been many months since Loki came to this world, but he already flourishes with the power it’s taught him. His training has certainly been more dynamic and practical than any of his schoolroom days on Asgard, turning him into a true threat, which gives him an extortionate advantage.

He’s still not yet certain what to do with his capabilities.

Traveling from realm to realm, after all, is not such a difficult process. All he has to do is temporarily dissolve his particles into the universe, and hope that its force will carry him to the image in his mind. He must cope with the momentary feeling of his skin and consciousness being decomposed and swept away into the atmosphere, but when he opens his eyes, he is always standing in Thor’s room, a shadow as his older brother sleeps away.

But Thor is noticing him. He can tell.

The male stirs from his sleep occasionally and looks in Loki’s direction. His agitated mind causes his body to turn into the sheets, though it’s uncommon for Thor to partake in a sleep that isn’t robust. Loki can tell that his presence is known, but he has not wanted to explicitly reveal it; no, he’s wanted to wait until it is so close to the coronation, Thor won’t be able to focus on his rite. If Loki cannot have the crown, then he deserves to be the crown.

Atryx is vigorously at work in the cave, trying to tap into the power of the stalagmite for whatever purposes he has. He knows he won’t notice Loki’s absence, but the male gives him a parting smile anyways. Then his body bursts into molecules and is swept away into the air.

...

Loki appears in the dark room, a tall figure looming in the crevice of the shadows.

Thor is awake tonight- Loki can see the gleam of his brother’s irises as they flicker back and forth, seemingly private in their process. More than anything, Loki wants to change that.

For so long, the male has cowered at thunderstorms, experiencing a fast-moving rotation of emotions. Anger that Thor would wait so long to return, relief that he may finally be coming (coupled with hope, because he does not know for sure that it is more than a storm), and then inescapable shame and disappointment when no blonde figure thrusts him from the ground.

Now Loki wants to be the thunderstorm. He wants Thor to feel his prying eyes, and be slashed with the hope of Loki’s impossible return.

And yet- no. He wants to be the rain, all at once.

Loki clears his throat and can’t help but split open with a smile when he sees Thor jerk his head to the side, the male’s eyes wide and off guard.

Silently, known, Loki wraps his hands around the golden helmet that Thor has on display across the room, clutching it in his fingers and glaring at it with a threatening smile.

“Are you counting the days, brother?” he asks suddenly, a laugh breaking through his teeth. “I am.”

Thor tears the blanket off him and bolts up in his bed, wild with emotion.

“Loki,” he gasps, as if he wasn’t continually aware of his brother’s existence- as if he didn’t know that Loki has been watching him all of these nights. It makes his body wrinkle with anger. He should be more obvious than this.

“Three days, yes?” Loki fronts, placing the crown back down so that it clinks with the table. “Oh, imagine the pride that must be circulating through this castle.”

Thor shakes away the sarcasm and hangs forward, jaw open. “Where have you been?” he asks breathlessly, still making Loki feel like an apparition. “The last time I saw you was on Midgard, is that where you reside now?” The questions tumble out, and Loki wonders how long they’ve been saved up.

Laughing, Loki advances, palm curling into a fist. “Indeed, Odinson, and while you’ve been perfecting your curtsy, I’ve been been growing stronger.” He turns his head to the side and runs his fingers across his eyes to demonstrate how wary he is. “Shame that you never thought to come search for me. It surprised me too.”

“I couldn’t.”

The phrase is rough, heavily defensive. “It’s a risk for you to even be here, now.” Not adequate. “The amount of power it required to visit you once was taxing, and not only that, but it left a trail for father to follow. I could not lead him to you, for you know that you are still to be held responsible for your crimes.”

Loki comes towards the bed and presses his hand down on the mattress, leaning into his brother’s tentative posture.

“That man cannot hope to enslave me,” he articulates, still beaming. Thor’s body self-consciously rises to meet his brother, pressing forward to Loki’s being. “But all of that is aside. Tell me now, brother, when you came to see me… how many moons, exactly, did you jump over to get to me?”

He lowers his lips over Thor’s mouth and soaks up the older’s measured breathing. It’s meant to be a parting kiss, but Thor seizes Loki in his hands and pulls him into the bed, ravenously hauling their bodies together.

Loki groans and pulls himself up, tearing from Thor’s lips.

“You forget, brother,” he sneers while Thor grips his hips as if to fulfill a thought-out fantasy, or to compensate for Loki’s inability to hold the crown. “I am still wholly angry at you for abandoning me. This throne is driving you to forget your own brother. What kind of king can rule a body of people, if he cannot even hold onto his single most cherished subject?

Thor snaps his teeth as Loki lifts a leg and slips it around Thor’s waist. He pulls himself up so that he’s sitting on Thor’s hips, ankles wrapping around the other’s neck. His calves are taken into Thor’s grip, jolting him forwards with a snicker.

“Please be careful, brother,” he simpers, pressing his fingertips to Thor’s trousers.

He dances his fingertips along the fabric and they unravel at his touch, turning into threads of fabric that weave around his palm and vanish into the air.

Thor questioningly tightens his hold. “How are you doing that?”

“Alchemy,” Loki divulges, cocking his head to the side. “Were you not aware that Midgard had its own form of magic, brother?” He breathes through his nose and grasps Thor’s torso, lowering his lips to the male’s chest and rubbing circles on it with his chin. “You see, there are some things more powerful than ruling a kingdom. I happen to be the right vessel for it.”

Loki laughs, noticing how Thor keeps his expression neutrally curious.

Teeth shining, he blushes and turns his gaze away. Then he snaps and his clothes come off, sheets of material that crash through the air and are sent elsewhere in the universe.

“But I’m still pretty jealous,” he grins, and all at once his view turns towards the helmet across the room.

With a gasp of delight, Loki’s mind pulls it towards him and thrusts it backwards over Thor’s head, making a clunking noise as it collides with the male’s flesh.

“Wear your crown, Thor,” Loki speaks mockingly, sealing the air pockets around the helmet’s opening so that when his brother tries to pry it off, he can’t unbind it from his head. “You should learn its burden now, while you still are free from its restraint.”

Thor speaks into the helmet, but the sound just reverberates inside its metal walls. Loki tilts his head back and shifts himself around Thor’s cock, rocking his body in subtle motions until an erection starts to hold beneath him.

Leaning forwards, Loki presses a kiss to the helmet’s cold surface. A hand comes up and grabs the back of his head, pulling a fistful of hair so forcefully that Loki winces and shoots back up.

“Be patient, you beheaded creature,” he murmurs callously, fitting his legs around the phallus, too dry for any use.

Loki lifts his palm to his mouth and licks up to his fingertips. As he does, a shower of water rains down between his fingers, particles of water vapor released from the air. He wraps his hand around Thor’s cock and dampens it with liquid mist.

As he gets upon Thor’s erection, the shudder in the male’s body suits him, and he generously tilts the helmet off Thor, letting his brother open his lips and gasp for air.

Settling onto him, Loki takes the helmet between his hands and observes it, narrowing his eyes.

“Is this supposed to represent anything?” he asks critically, pushing his body down hard and throwing Thor’s hands to his hips.

As Thor seizes hold to bring himself deeper into Loki, the other closes his eyes and focuses on the molecules in the helmet. It’s far too large for him, so he uses the excess gold in it to make two long antlers spurt from the metal, narrowing the girth of it. Loki holds the item for a moment, studying its new shape, and then places it upon his head. He leans backwards as it fits in place around his skull.

He’s immersed in the feeling of this superiority, wearing the helmet and Thor at the same time- until Thor hits his pelvic bone and he seethes in a flurry of radiance, sharp electricity coursing through his muscles.

“Okay,” he hisses, grinding down onto Thor with a series of timed movements, rising off and back onto his brother's cock.

For a minute, he's able to arch his chest back and simply become the motion he's creating.

But Thor swallows, and then he speaks.

“I have a place,” he urges suddenly. “Pages of your books. Salts for your baths. It’s safe. It’s tucked away in a little fragment of the nine realms.”

Loki apathetically lowers his eyes and goes, Huh.

Then he vanishes. Because he knows that arriving but not finishing is a far worse fate than never coming at all.

The helmet falls to Thor's chest and tumbles onto the ground, a clatter that sends it spinning, hollow, on the floor.

-

Thor stands on the edge of a billowing cave.

An ocean of atmosphere rushes beneath him, sending up waves of salt that he gulps into his lungs. His eyes are closed, waiting, and there is nothing upon his head but strings of hair which are moist from the ocean. He knows Loki is coming.

“This is quite literally a fragment of the universe.”

Thor grins and turns. Years ago, Loki was never this skilled at showing up, but now he has mastered the ability to flicker right in, and creep upon Thor without a single hint.

“Is this place even within your jurisdiction?” Loki asks delicately, turning to see his brother.

In these years, Thor’s beard has grown out into a thick pattern of stubble. His hair is long and wild, whipping around his shoulders as the air blows it around. He’s still all gold, (of course), though he now reflects wisdom and peace, something grand having been erected behind his eyes.

Thor smiles, refusing to answer. “Asgard is,” he informs, crossing his arms. “Therefore, you may come home now. No punishment shall befall you, Loki.”

Loki rolls the thought around. Atryx is trying to collect energies mighty enough to take control of other human souls, but Loki hardly finds that an attractive notion. He is capable of traveling anywhere in the universe, but none will willingly accept him.

“Let me see this one, first,” Loki murmurs, thinking about the tropical, heated pools and caverns of books his brother has promised him. “I might just want to stay here instead.”

Nodding, Thor nudges Loki towards the opening of the cave.

“If you so much as come to consider returning to Asgard, I’ll let you sit upon my throne,” he offers, leaning his head in knowingly.

Loki scoffs and pushes it away, rolling his eyes.

“Already have,” he answers.

Thor grabs for Loki’s hands and shows his teeth, a dangerous smile curling up. “Don’t leave this time,” he urges, shoving his brother into mouth of the cave. Loki laughs and follows him, deciding he will come home, if only briefly, to see how things have changed.

...

There were two beings traversing the universe that night.