Loki makes his deal with the dwarves - that they can have his head if they make treasures more beautiful than those from the Sons of Ivaldi - because he knew it was improbable, and he had faith in his own tongue to get him out of it. However, he had underestimated their skill as well as Thor’s rage, and now, in the throne room in front of Odin and Frigga and Freyr and rest, Loki knows he’s outnumbered. They won’t let him weasel out of his deal, no matter how logically he does it.
So he flees.
Asgard has many winding streets in which to lose pursuers; Loki knows this well enough from his youth. Yet he runs farther than the city, out into the southeastern forests that linger right at the edge of Asgard’s astral oceans, thick and shadowed where no one can find him. He’s safe, he thinks.
He’s fully prepared to spend a chilly night among a rocky outcrop, not daring to light a fire or disturb the earth around him. He lies on his back, resting his head on the folded pillow of his coat, and stares up at the stars.
Thor’s anger will pass with time, Loki thinks as he traces constellations from memory. There was no more reason for him to be irrate; Sif had her hair back, and in a better colour, too, and with or without it, Loki’s prank hadn’t compromised her ability as a warrior. At least, it shouldn’t, but Loki never really understood women’s vanity--
A whoosh from the trees makes him sit up in alarm - perfect for a dark mass to tackle him back. And not just anything, but Thor; Loki can recognize the frustration in his growls as they wrestle in the grass. The struggle doesn’t last (it never does), and ends with Thor pinning Loki face-first into the ground, twisting one arm behind him and pressing his knee to the small of Loki’s back. “Release me,” Loki hisses back at him. It’s worth the try.
“You have dishonoured our House with your swindle, brother, and I cannot release you until you repay your--Loki!” Thor’s preoccupation with honour lets Loki murmur enough magic to teleport out of Thor’s grip. One moment he’s pinned, the next moment he’s standing, and he takes off again.
Or tries. Thor runs fast enough to snag his arm, pull it back, and slam Loki back into one of the granite boulders jutting out from the ground. With Thor pressed so close, crowding him against the rock, Loki needs more space. He takes a breath, readying another transport spell--
Thor’s hand covers his mouth, even going so far as curving one strong finger underneath his chin so he can’t lower it.
He can’t kick Thor, he’s too close, so one arm beats uselessly at Thor’s arm, glowing with benign magic that can’t pierce Thor’s armor, and the other is pinned back into the rock.
At Loki’s struggles - his squirming - Thor finally cracks a smile, but it’s grim, and he doesn’t relent. “Those dwarves would see I rend your words from you, permanently.”
Loki’s shout is muffled against Thor’s hand.
“I know you refuse, Loki, but why should I,” he asks, his face close to Loki’s, “when you have made a mockery of our friend, the dwarves, and the royal house of Asgard?”
His other hand tightens over the bones in Loki’s wrist, and for a fleeting moment Loki thinks Thor might take his retribution right here: crush his hand to hobble his spells and crush his throat to silence his future lies. He pushes against Thor’s weight, and Thor leans forward; the boulder digs into Loki’s back. An irritated sound escapes his throat.
“Loki,” Thor says with a sigh, and he sounds tired though still exasperated, “Father is thinking of taking your voice for a time, if you continue this.”
The news causes Loki’s eyes to widen, and he claws at Thor’s arm. He needs to speak; if anyone can help him stave his punishment now, it’s Thor. Mother would console him but wouldn’t stop it from happening, and everybody else would prefer if it were permanent.
Thor’s grip loosens slightly, but he warns, “If you are going to cast another spell, I will silence you in others ways, brother.”
Loki stares at him, stills, and waits, daring Thor to believe that he won’t. Slowly, the hand draws away, and Loki takes a breath. “...I can use my voice for better things - don’t forget that, or let Father forget it.”
“And yet you would have us remember the worse things instead!”
“They’re more extraordinary; it’s not my fault if they are better remembered.” Loki pushes against Thor’s chest to give some room between them, but once his brother is foolish enough to give it to him, he summons a leather strap into his hand. The next moment it coils around Thor’s head, a broad brown strip across Thor’s mouth.
“And do not ever gag me,” Loki hisses, ducks under Thor’s second attempt to do just that, and whispers a spell that takes him far away from this forest and Asgard.
Two weeks passed before Loki thought he could return. He slunk back to Asgard and lingered in the shadows, listening to conversations to grab bits and pieces of information. The dwarves had been paid handsomely for their troubles, treated to rich Asgardian hospitality, after ten days they had finally returned to Nidavellir, citing their love for the forge.
Loki approached his mother first, and she was always happy to see him. With her, he feigned reluctance to go to the dinner so as to win her unconditional support, and he finally came to sit at her right at the High Table that evening, dressed in his casual (though royal) garb. It took every once of his control not to smirk at the look on his father’s expression, surprise and annoyance hobbled by his love for his wife, or his brother’s, anger barely contained by the setting and Frigga’s stern look.
He ate well.
Returning to his own chambers had to be the greatest part of the day, though, able to indulge in the company of his books and his magnificent bed rather than scrounging for peace and comfort across the nine realms. For a while, dressed down in his pajamas, he lay spread eagle across the covers and enjoyed their comfort.
Until the door to his bedroom opens with a sudden bang!, and he hasn’t moved off the bed yet before Thor tackles him back onto the mattress. Loki wrestles him, again, it’s always futile, Thor’s going to pin him on way or another. Except this time he has a red scarf in his hands, and the ends of it whip about as their limbs flail, but Loki can’t ponder its existence for very long, as Thor has just pinned him face-first into the covers.
And then he ties the scarf tight around Loki’s head, jerking the cloth right between his lips and knotting it at the back of his neck. Loki's teeth clamp down on it at once.
Furious, Loki’s hands glow green, pulling the ether out of the air to blast him off and damn the rest of the furniture here, but then Thor flips him back over onto his back. His brows are furrowed, and he’s looking down at Loki with--concern.
“You must listen, Loki, and not speak or cast,” Thor says, and his large hand grasps Loki’s chin. Loki’s hand digs into his wrist in return. “The dwarves may be gone, now, but they will still hunt you in Nidavellir. They will sew your lips shut, given the chance. They said as much." Both hands move to grasp Loki's shoulders, and Loki's fingers come up to dig into Thor's elbows.
“But you ran away - and how was I to know you wouldn’t be caught by them? How can I protect you from that fate if you are not here?” Thor’s hands shake on Loki’s shoulders with frustration, and Loki guesses that Thor is not so much angry at him (though there is that, certainly), but at his propensity to flee. Of course Thor wouldn’t understand that; he always fights his way through conflict.
Assumptions in mind, Loki slowly reaches out to grab at Thor’s shoulder, to give him a reassuring squeeze in the absence of soft words of comfort. Thor looks at his hand, sighs, and then pulls back to sit up. He’s not leaving - so he must still want Loki’s company. Reaching up to untie the scarf--
“No,” Thor says, catching his wrist gently. “Leave it--it’s a nice change.” He finally smiles, and Loki glares at him and keeps glaring as Thor pulls him up, too, right into his lap. “I do not think you will need words for this, either.”
Thor really does miss him. At first, he's gentle, taking off Loki's remaining clothes one by one. His hands slide underneath each garment, giving little pinches that makes Loki writhe and utter sounds of frustration that aren't hidden by the scarf.
And by the time that Thor has slick fingers twisting inside of him, probing and stretching him, Loki forgets how much he hates to be gagged, because words fail him anyway.