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The hardest hue to hold

Chapter Text

Loki followed Thor into the empty hangar and magically sealed the room shut behind them. He didn’t always bother, but they hadn’t even begun yet and Thor was already crackling with pent up electricity - his control was likely to be even spottier than usual.

Which was, after all, what they were here to work on. But in the meantime it wouldn’t do to accidentally electrocute innocent passers-by.

Before, (before Hela had sauntered into their lives, before they had both become unworthy little brothers), Thor had always had his hammer to act as both a constraint and a channel on what turned out to be his own brand of seidr. Now that Mjolnir was gone it was like trying to hold back a thunderstorm with his bare hands; the lightning was always there, always ready to rip out.

And it turned out that channeling enormous lightning bolts was an asset in a fight (not to mention extraordinarily breathtaking), but not so conducive to life on a spaceship.

Startling Thor brought it sparking out immediately; he’d accidentally shocked more than one person into unconsciousness already. Even when he had it fairly under control, he was constantly surrounded by a bubble of static electricity. It was funny when it made every piece of fuzz in a ten-foot radius stick to his cape, but not so much when it accidentally shorted out vital electrical panels. Or life support systems. Or the hot water to Loki’s shower.

So Thor had come to Loki for help, and Loki, being an idiot wherever his brother was concerned, had agreed.

(Besides, he really hated cold showers.)

“Have you been practicing the meditation exercises that I showed you?” Loki asked, watching as Thor paced back and forth across the end of the hangar. The ceilings were high in here, at least four times as high as the ship’s corridors, and it was mostly empty but for some haphazardly stacked crates along the walls. His voice echoed oddly.

“No,” Thor snapped. “I haven’t had time.” He reached up to finger around the edge of his eyepatch, a new tic he’d developed over the past few weeks. Loki wondered if it still pained him. Eir had done the best she could, and Loki had tried as well, but something of Hela’s touch remained no matter how well the flesh had knit back together. It was evident in the way that Thor couldn’t keep his hands away from it, the way his brow would lower whenever their sister’s name was uttered, the way he’d stare into space when he thought no one was looking.

(Loki was always looking.)

“What is the point of this session, then?” Loki asked.

“Rule takes up all of my time. Our practice here must be enough. What use do I have for children’s meditations?” Thor was running his hand over his beard now, then around to the shorn hair at his nape. Another loss.

Loki stifled his irritation. “Yes, they are children’s methods, because they are fundamental. Children learn these the moment they start showing aptitude at sorcery, as I did, and as you now must. These are the absolute basics, you cannot skip them. You must make time for them.”

“What do you think I’m doing here!” Thor growled in frustration, throwing off sparks.

“Wasting my time, apparently.” Loki folded his arms over his chest.

“As you are wasting mine right now.”

They glared at each other.

It was still odd to Loki, being back at Thor’s side like this. They weren’t pretending the last decade or so hadn’t happened, exactly, but they weren’t talking about it a whole lot either. And in moments like these he wondered just where precisely they stood. Just how far Thor’s love extended. Loki had given Thor precious few reasons to trust him over the last few years and a veritable slew of reasons not to; he didn’t think Thor would throw him out the airlock, but he might very well decide he didn’t need Loki around after all and send him packing on the Commodore.

The thought gnawed at him more than he liked to admit.

It wasn’t about to make him soft, though.

“Both of us are busy,” Loki said shortly. “It’s not like I enjoy taking a chunk out of my schedule to come babysit you through lessons I learned eight centuries ago.”

“From mother,” Thor said, voice edged in roughness eight emotions deep. He started pacing again. Fingering his eyepatch. Jagged tendrils of lightning spiderwebbing out behind him with each step.

Loki deflated a bit. “Yes, from mother.” Memories crowded in from weeks ago, of the only home they’d ever known exploding into a billion trillion pieces, of a hug he hadn’t known he’d needed, of the night they spent together in Thor’s cabin afterwards getting stinking drunk and reminiscing (even in his memory Loki doesn’t admit he cried). Frigga and everything she had ever touched were gone to stardust, but for the two of them. The sudden unexpected grief left a lump in his throat.

He had the oddest sensation of missing Thor the most, even though Thor was the only thing who was still here.

“Let’s get on with it,” Thor said gruffly.

They were both clearly in poor states of mind today, and Loki should have called the whole thing off. Should have insisted on the meditation. Should have cleared his own emotions. Should have done a lot of things he didn’t.

Instead, he sighed and began the lesson.

*

Scarcely thirty minutes later, half the hangar was on fire and Loki was screaming his throat raw.

*

Even if he’d had his wits about him Loki wouldn’t have been able to say exactly what had happened, how it had gotten so completely out of control. But he didn’t have his wits about him. All he had was animal fear and adrenaline and a lifetime of sorcerer’s instincts.

Thor’s tenuous handle on his seidr had been steadily slipping through the entire lesson - the harder he tried to grasp it the swifter it slipped through his fingers, like trying to pick up fistfuls of water - and Loki had expected some kind of large uncontrolled discharge at some point (after which he would stress, again, the importance of those damned meditation exercises).

But Thor hadn’t just discharged, he had exploded.

Was still exploding.

The blinding pillar of incandescence at the other end of the hangar was his brother, frozen into a stiff unnatural shape by the electricity coursing through him completely unchecked. Forking bolts of lightning crackled out wildly, striking the walls and ceiling and floor so rapidly that their flash was like being caught under a strobe light.

Loki had thrown up his own shields immediately but they were being sorely tested.

“THOR!” he cried out desperately. “THOR, YOU HAVE TO STOP. YOU’LL KILL THE WHOLE SHIP DEAD IN THE WATER AND US WITH IT. THOR!

If on Asgard Thor had channeled the storm, now he had become it. The wind whipped around them, picking up the cargo containers and tossing them like they weighed nothing. Thor was beyond hearing, beyond reason, beyond anything. Loki staggered towards him, arm outstretched.

He’d warded the room when they entered but it was going to crumble at any second under this onslaught.

“THOR!”

He could see Thor’s bones glowing beneath his skin, count his teeth and his ribs. Thor’s body jerked spasmodically into a new position, twisted and uncanny. His eye - eyes - turned sightlessly towards Loki, two pools of radiance. Loki felt his own face twist with the effort it took to step one pace closer.

He’d never reach Thor this way. They’d die here together. Panic clawed at his chest.

Frantically, he reached out with his own seidr. Nothing he’d ever learned in any book had prepared him for this; he had no idea what he was looking for or doing. He simply did. Maybe he was trying to contain the lightning somehow, lessen it until Thor could come back to himself enough to take back over. Or maybe he was trying to cut Thor off at the source. Or maybe he could simply knock him unconscious.

His intentions were irrelevant though, for the instant their magics touched Thor’s turned towards his, grasping and prying. Loki screamed as the lightning wrapped around his own seidr, twisting and yanking, pulling it out from deep within the core of him. He felt himself start to unravel like a skein of yarn. Terrified, he tried to gather himself back in, stuff himself back into himself, but it was useless; Thor’s power was too strong and its hold too great.

Loki had only felt this utterly helpless once before in his life.

Energy poured out of both of them in writhing branches and arteries and twined around each other, golden green and silver-blue tangling and knotting in pulsing, undulating harmony, knitting itself together electron by electron into a shimmering fabric that was both beautiful and terrible to behold.

Loki felt himself rise up into the air, and Thor with him. He wasn’t sure where he ended and Thor began, or if he had ever ended at all. He was Thor, and Thor was him. They were in each other’s arms now, drawn together as surely on the physical plane as they were on the astral plane, and Loki’s dark hair floated around them like a corona in negative.

For an instant they hung there in midair, suspended by the radiant cords emerging from their backs, bowed towards each other like twins curled up in a womb.

And then the coruscating curtain of light expanded rapidly outward, briefly engulfing the entire ship before collapsing in on itself with a soundless concussion.

They fell.

*

Chapter Text

The first thing Loki became aware of was that his foot was cold.

The second, that he was lying on something very soft.

The third, what the hell was that damn repetitive rasping noise?

Managing to crack one eye open far enough to see light through his eyelashes, he finally wound his brain around back to the first thing. Reflexively, his toes wiggled. His bare toes. With a groan he forced his eyes the rest of the way open.

Had the blast knocked his boots off? Where was Thor? What—

He finally registered that he was in his own cabin, in his own bed, with one foot hanging out of the covers.

“Good morning, your highness,” a woman’s voice drawled, somehow turning the address into an insult. The Valkyrie. Brunnhilde. He made a small noise of mingled discomfort and dismay.

Blearily, he focused his eyes across the room to where Brunnhilde sat spread-legged in a chair sharpening one of her knives. Ah, that must be the repetitive rasping noise.

“You...what...why—” The words he wanted to use lay scattered around his mind, and he felt like he had to pluck them one by one like pieces of fruit and examine each before he could make his tongue pronounce them. He gave up with a soft moan. Norns, his head hurt.

“Well, there’s a lot to tell you, but I’m not going to be the one to do it. My job is done now.” She rose in one smooth motion, tapped a panel on the wall, and began to speak into it. The voice that responded was too tinny to make out from across the room. “Yeah, it’s me. He’s awake. No, he’s not violent, looks like you didn’t need me after all. Send the healer down, yeah?”

“Violent?” Loki said, wincing as he struggled to sit up.

“When His Majesty the king woke up he threw the healer tending to him across the room, so we didn’t take any chances this time,” she said, crossing her arms and pursing her lips. “I am fully capable of kicking your ass, as you well know.”

“That I do,” Loki allowed, finally heaving himself upright.

“You deserved it, too,” she said darkly.

Loki smirked with no humor. They may have destroyed a world together, but there was no love lost between them. He let his head fall back against the wall and closed his eyes. He was achy and weak, but he could already feel his mind clearing and feel the strength returning to his flaccid limbs.

“Well?” he said with his eyes still closed.

“Well what?”

“You’re dismissed.”

He heard her indignant scoff and felt the wall rattle as she punched it on her way out.

Maybe one day Loki would apologize for invading Brunnhilde’s mind and mean it, and maybe one day she might even forgive him, but it wasn’t today.

He collected his thoughts while he waited for the healers to come. The disastrous magic lesson. Thor’s powers going completely out of control. The weird...thing...their seidr had done. The ship appeared to be fine though, and the people, and obviously he was still alive, so that was good. Brunnhilde had mentioned that Thor was alive and awake and throwing people around. Also good.

Thor. At the thought of his brother he felt a twinge, a thrumming in the back of his mind like a melody he couldn’t quite discern. A phantom taste of ozone made his blood quicken. He lost himself for a moment trying to follow the pathway of the elusive music. It was nearly close enough to make out...its notes seemed to paint themselves in green-gold and silver-blue, the susurrus of the afternoon forest and the brontide of the approaching storm, but they remained maddeningly just out of focus...it was vitally important to hear it completely, he was sure of it, surer than he’d ever been in his life -

His reverie was rudely interrupted by the arrival of Eir, once the head palace healer, now the head ship’s healer.

“Your highness,” she smiled.

She poked and prodded at him and he bore it all with minimal fuss. His mind was only half present anyway. He was still lost down the garden path, chasing the music, but it was always at least half a step ahead. He wished Thor was here with a longing just short of a physical ache; Thor would help him find the music. Somehow he knew this fact better than he knew his own name.

By the time Eir managed to examine him and coax him into bathing and eating the tray of food she’d brought with her, he was physically feeling nearly himself again. He moved to the window and stared out past his own reflection— hair falling messily in loose waves, dressing gown partly open— and let Eir’s voice wash over him.

“...lucky we had Korg here,” Eir was saying.

“Hmm?”

“He was the only one able to reach the two of you. You made a fine sight, lying on the ground sparking like mad. Luckily rock isn’t conductive.”

“Mmm.” How long had she been talking for, anyway? “So, what, exactly happened?”

She looked mildly discomfited for a moment. “I think you’d better talk to His Majesty about that. He asked to be notified immediately when you woke. He should arrive—”

“Now,” Loki cut her off. “He’s coming now.”

The thrumming music was growing in intensity, layers and shades of harmony stacking upon each other, growing louder with each step that drew Thor closer. Silly that he hadn’t recognized it from the start. Of course the music was Thor.

It grew to a crescendo inside of him until it drowned out everything around him that was not-Thor. It was a full celestial choir at this point, the swirl of galaxies, the song of the heavens, and repeated over and over in every frequency like a cosmic signature was Thor-and-Loki, Loki-and-Thor...their vibrational energies resonating almost completely in sync...almost but not quite...it was an itch, a burr under a saddle, an overriding need to lock the two into perfect perfection…

The door to Loki’s cabin slid open and Thor was there. Neither of them even noticed Eir scurrying away.

“Brother,” Loki breathed, hand outstretched.

Their fingers touched. The song swelled to a shining fermata that hung for a brief agonizing eternity, and finally, finally, with relief bordering on ecstasy, their disparate melodies clicked flawlessly into place.

It was many long minutes before Loki became aware of his physical body again, of Thor’s arms around him, of his own hands clutching tightly at Thor’s hair. They were kissing. When had that happened?

It didn’t matter.

He never wanted to stop.

The last chord died away to a pleasant contented hum in the back of his mind.

“What happened?” Loki asked roughly, pulling back far enough to talk but not relinquishing his hold on his brother’s hair.

Thor shook his head. His voice was sandpaper as well. “I was hoping you could tell me.”

“Do you hear it?” Loki whispered. Of course Thor could hear it. But he needed him to say it.

“Yes.” Thor closed his eye and rocked their foreheads together. “I woke up two days ago and it was there. It was so faint, it drove me crazy. And then...today they came to tell me that you had woken up but I already knew it...because it turns out it was you in there all along…”

“Two days,” Loki murmured. He kissed Thor again, soft and melting. Perhaps it should have felt strange. But nothing between them felt strange anymore, not even this. The tips of their tongues danced lightly against each other and Loki sighed into Thor’s mouth.

“Look,” Thor said. He let go of his hold on Loki’s waist to pull Loki’s hand gently from the back of his neck and press their palms together, fingers splayed.

Small filaments of electricity played out, wreathing delicately around their combined hands. Thor closed his eye and breathed deeply. Even tinier threads branched away, barely even thick enough to be seen, and they licked out and raised the fine hairs on Loki’s forearm one by one. The amount of control it must have taken was breathtaking.

Loki felt pride well up inside him, and hot on its heels a pleased embarrassment. The first emotion had been his own, but the second…

“Once I came back to myself I realized,” Thor rumbled softly, running his other hand lightly down the back of Loki’s arm and making him erupt in shivers, “that the lightning...it wasn’t overwhelming anymore. It felt like there was something else inside me helping to control it...the same way that Mjolnir used to do...only this time I don’t feel like the flow is limited the way Mjolnir limited it either, I just feel...strong, and…I think it’s you...”

It all caught up with him and Loki turned away, mortified. The music...the kiss…Thor’s powers...feeling Thor’s emotions...something profound had happened between them that afternoon in the hangar, something more than just a seidr explosion...

Could Thor feel Loki’s emotions now too? Read his thoughts? Would he have nothing left of himself?

The thought was nearly unbearable. He fought to breathe.

Wordless worry pulsed between them. “Loki—” Thor started.

“Stop,” Loki grated, squeezing his eyes shut.

“Loki,” Thor said again, but this time his name was a pronouncement in and of itself.

Loki had always known in the abstract that Thor loved him, or that at least Thor had claimed to. The existence of his brother’s love had never truly been in doubt. The nature of it, however— that, Loki had had ample reason and opportunity to view with suspicion. He had at various times considered it shallow, condescending, laughable, oppressive, naive, not enough.

But the emotion from Thor surging through their bond now was none of those things. It was deep and rough, desperate, painful. Longing. All-encompassing. It cut like glass and the very savageness of it was a balm that soothed like warm summer rain, for it echoed the turmoil inside Loki’s own breast.

Loki would have fallen to his knees if Thor hadn’t caught him and held him up.

Relief washed over him. For his entire existence Loki had believed himself damaged. That he was too easily wounded by emotions he was certain that others didn’t possess with the same intensity that he did— alone in the depths of the feelings he struggled so vainly to control. It had been a constant and neverending source of grief and guilt and anger.

But he wasn’t alone. The proof was resonating through him even now. He had never been alone. That the strength of Thor’s feelings - his love - could match Loki’s own was a revelation that shook him to the core.

He sent his own love back across the bond, the beautiful parts as well as the ugly ones. It was harsh and grasping, covetous. Greedy. Profoundly needy. He gave it all to his brother, let him feel every twisted knot in the tangle of his heart.

Thor gave a small cry and crushed Loki to his chest.

For the first time ever, Loki felt like he and his brother knew each other. Knew, and understood, and accepted, and— Loki realized with a small rush— loved all the more fiercely for it.

They clung together and Loki’s relief melted into sadness. If only they’d known sooner. So many centuries they’d wasted.

“What fools we’ve been,” Loki said, burying his face in Thor’s neck.

“I know.” Thor stroked Loki’s hair, digging his fingers into the silky curls, and Loki felt it in every nerve all the way to his toes. He didn’t know whether the yawning ache inside him came from himself or his brother and he shuddered.

“I don’t know where I end anymore and it scares me,” Loki said, nearly a whisper. Before, he would have died rather than admit such a thing, but what was the point now? There could be nothing hidden between them anymore. It still rankled, but the feeling was distant and his brother was near.

“Maybe...we don’t end any longer…a serpent eating its own tail...”

They were pressed together the entire length of their bodies but they weren’t close enough. Loki wanted to wrap himself around Thor, envelop him completely, devour him— crack him open and crawl inside— become him, become one, become more than one— the feeling was terrifyingly new and strange, but he felt it echoed back to him from Thor’s own soul and it gave him the strength to let go and gave in to it.

Thor’s other hand was on his waist and Loki felt it burning through the cloth of his dressing gown. They were kissing again. How it kept happening without his knowledge Loki didn’t know but he didn’t particularly care at this point. Thor’s beard was rough against the tender skin of Loki’s chin, but his lips, oh, those were as soft as doeskin. The hand at Loki’s waist pulled him tighter just as Loki bit lightly at Thor’s lower lip, and they both groaned softly at the same time.

He felt Thor’s hunger deep in his own belly. Or maybe it was his own, fed into Thor and back again, an endless loop.

Thor fell back onto the bed and dragged Loki down on top of him. Four hands were everywhere, and no way to tell whose was whose— soft exhalations and the smooth slide of fabric over skin, the rake of nails over shivering flesh— the broad flat of a tongue dragging wetly across the newly exposed topography of naked bodies—

Loki sat back to drink in the sight of his brother spread golden and waiting before him. He ran his palms up the rippling muscles of Thor’s abdomen, cupped them over his breast, swept his thumbs over the firm ridge of each clavicle, around the curve of his shoulders, and up and up, until he cradled Thor’s face and once again leaned in to drink his breath. Gently, he ghosted the tips of his fingers over his brother’s eyepatch. He felt Thor’s trepidation, his urge to shrink away. The hands bracketing Loki’s ribs squeezed tightly.

“Shh,” Loki said, though Thor had made no sound. He lifted the little circle of black leather away and set it aside, then skimmed his fingers over the bed of ropey scars, followed by the pink tip of his tongue, then his lips.

Thor tensed for a moment, then closed his other eye and surrendered to it. His breath sounded high and thin and the hands that kneaded at Loki’s ribs grew rough. Loki felt the expanding lightness within his brother, the way Thor’s heart swelled in his chest.

“That’s it,” Loki breathed, kissing his way back down Thor’s body. He lapped and nuzzled, caressed, worshipped at the altar of perfection that lay trembling beneath him. “Let me adore you. My beautiful brother.”

He would sacrifice himself upon that altar and willingly, had done so countless times in the past, often in secret, but there were no secrets anymore. Loki’s emotions pulsed between them now and the full extent of his shameful devotion was finally laid bare. He had tried to excise this part of himself so many times he was sick to think on it, and to finally expose it so completely was as much a relief as it was a humiliation.

“Loki—” Thor said hoarsely, sliding his hand into the hair at Loki’s temple and holding him fast, tilting his head up to look him in the face. His eye was blue fire, electricity sizzling beneath the surface. “I never knew.”

“And now you do.” Loki closed his eyes and pressed his cheek to the skin of Thor’s stomach in a silent moment of mourning. Gave himself over to it with a broken sigh.

Thor tugged him upwards, insistent, and Loki complied, for once in his life willing putty to be shaped by his brother’s hands.

Thor sucked Loki’s upper lip into his mouth in a fierce kiss. His demanding tongue parted Loki’s lips and swept inside, tasting and consuming. He still had hold of Loki’s hair and he held on fast, not letting Loki move an inch until he had taken his fill.

“I could eat you alive,” Thor growled low in his chest. “And you would let me.”

“I would,” Loki agreed, panting, helpless to deny it. “I’ve killed for you, bled for you...I’ve died so many times for you already. What’s one more?”

Thor groaned wordlessly and his yearning and despair flooded through Loki until he thought he might burst. Thor reached one large hand down and stroked Loki between the legs once, twice, and drew forth a keening gasp.

“Please,” Loki begged. “Let me love you.”

If there was to be nothing of him left, he at least wanted to have this.

A murmured word and Loki’s fingers were dripping. Thor’s body welcomed the intrusion eagerly, opening up so sweetly under Loki’s touch. Loki bit at the tendon in Thor’s neck as he worked his fingers inside, twisting and stroking, enveloped in Thor’s silky heat.

He replaced his fingers with his cock and they sank into each other, drowning.

Their melodies intertwined again. Point and counterpoint, dancing around each other in sublime union. Lightning trailed from Thor’s fingertips and electrified Loki’s body wherever they touched. And they touched everywhere - his thighs, the crease at his pelvis, hips and waist and belly and chest, and Loki cried out as he drove himself into his brother over and over.

Loki began to lose himself again, the edges of him bleeding away and dissolving.

The electricity from Thor’s hands sparked along his neurons and synapses and their hearts beat as one. Every heaving breath Loki took was matched by one from Thor, inhaling his brother and exhaling himself in an endless cycle, inflating his lungs with Thor’s gasps and his moans and his love. There is no ‘I’, was the message that came reverberating along their bond, only ‘we’, as it was ever meant to be.

Loki felt like his own love was a paltry offering in comparison, but he gave it anyway. My brother, my king, my world. He hadn’t said it out loud, but Thor grasped him all the tighter, squeezed his powerful thighs around Loki’s waist and dragged him in for a rough kiss.

They rocked together, slick and increasingly frantic, one beast with two backs. Loki took Thor’s cock in his hand and fisted up over the head until Thor bucked upwards hard enough to raise Loki to his knees and came with a strangled shout. Loki felt it through every cell of his body, felt them all sing out in a moment of transcendent joy, and he sobbed once before he could stop himself. His brother coming apart beneath him was enough to drive Loki over the edge as well and he emptied himself completely, body and soul, and their spirits spiraled upward together into the stars before exploding into a billion shards of light.

It was like dying. It was like being born.

Nothing would ever be the same.

They lay tucked together for a long while afterwards, drifting back down into their humming bones. Loki’s face was buried in the crook of his brother’s neck and his softening cock buried between his brother’s thighs - both of them homes he was unaccustomed to yet now knew he would never relinquish.

“You know,” Loki said conversationally, one hand resting lightly on the swell of Thor’s chest. “I’d read about soul bonds before but honestly I thought they were made up.”

He felt the rumble of Thor’s laugh.

“Oh is that what happened?”

Loki’s “mmm” of agreement vibrated against Thor’s neck and made him squirm pleasantly.

”I guess it’s just one more impossible thing in our impossible lives,” Thor said with warmth in his voice.

Oh how Loki had missed that voice talking to him in such warm honey-and-cinnamon tones. So often it had only been turned on him in anger and impatience and annoyance. He burrowed further into Thor’s side, sighing, still uncomfortable with these new admissions no matter how inevitable they were.

“If it had to be anyone, I’m glad it was you,” Thor said finally.

“I’m...not honestly sure if it could have happened with anyone else,” Loki admitted. “From what I’ve read it requires a certain set of...erm…’prerequisites.’”

Thor wrapped both arms around him and kissed his temple and sent a wordless pulse of love along the bond.

“I’m sure you’ll annoy the hell out of me eventually, like you always do, but for now this is pretty nice,” he said.

Loki snorted with amusement. “I don’t think we’ll ever stop annoying each other, brother mine.”

“At least you probably won’t stab me now.” Thor rubbed his beard into Loki’s cheek until he pushed away laughing.

“There is that, at least. No stabbings. Probably.”

“I love you.”

That word held so much more meaning now than it ever had before.

“I know.”

And for the first time, Loki actually did.