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Thor Odinson was a big man.

 

Moreover, Thor was the god of thunder, a being of light, churning air, molten rock. A god of cacophony and open spaces.

 

Creeping  did not become him.

 

“Aargh,” he said, and cursed as he bumped his head on an overhang.

 

The mountainside was riddled with overhangs, and pitfalls, loose rocks and sheets of ice that gave way beneath his feet. More than once, he’d trusted his grip to an unworthy handful of snow, and had gone tumbling down into the white abyss below, saving himself only by setting Mjolnir a-whirl as he plummeted. It had set him back a day and a half, for he hadn’t been able to use her to fly back up; this close to the summit, the winds were too strong.

 

He’d abandoned his cape before attempting the climb, and most of his supplies. There hadn’t been much left of them; he’d been hunting for three months. If this latest fuckbitchwhoresonevilcuntlicking turd of a rock didn’t yield any dividends, he promised himself, he was going home.

 

At his side, Mjolnir whispered encouragement; it can’t be much farther, my prince, my love, it can’t be.

 

0

 

The princes of Asgard had not been raised alongside one another, not until Thor’s twelfth year and Loki’s eleventh. For all the time preceding, they had been acquaintances, sharing a meal once a month with either Mother or Father in attendance; usually Mother. On one such occasion, Thor, six years old, had lobbed a carrot at the head of the dark-haired interloper sitting on his mother’s knee, and had been disappointed when the gesture was not returned.

 

They had both had grand bedrooms, at opposite ends of the palace. Thor had been aware that they were brothers, and it had rarely occurred to him to wonder why his day was structured so that their training schedules, lesson schedules and meals schedules rarely, if ever, overlapped. But brothers and sisters were a rare phenomenon in Asgard, where space, though vast, was limited and natural deaths unheard of. Producing more than one child carried with it a degree of stigma, unless one’s first child had already died in battle. This had begun to change following Frigga’s unashamed, public production of a second son, whereupon many noble ladies had followed her example, but none of Thor’s friends had siblings. Save Hogun, and his one older sibling was far away in a distant land of which he never spoke. So Thor had no idea that his relationship with his brother was in any way odd or unnatural; he had nothing to which he could compare it.

 

(Looking back now, he understood. Father, compassionate enough to save a helpless babe, would not have allowed that same child to be left alone with his only son and heir until he was entirely certain that it would not turn feral.)

 

The first full day he’d spent with his brother without Mother’s constant supervision had come long after he had made lifelong friends in Volstagg and Sif. When first Frigga had brought eleven-year-old Loki out from behind her skirts and asked Thor to let him play with them, the young prince been convinced that everyone was wrong; this so-called brother was clearly a sister.

 

This, all this, is what Thor offered in defence of himself and his unnatural desires; theirs had been an unnatural childhood.

 

He could offer nothing in defence of Loki’s unnatural desires, and thought his brother would not have wanted him to.

 

0

 

The snow stuck to his clothing, until his arms were too tired to keep brushing it off. Then the wind picked up, and it froze solid, making it hard to bend his knees and elbows as he climbed. This, he thought, was probably what Heimdal felt when Loki had turned the casket on him.

 

After half of mile of climbing, he caught the scent of Loki’s skin.

 

It was so different from anything he had smelled for months now, so familiar and comforting that he sighed, momentarily forgetting that he was supposed to be angry with his errant sibling. It conjured images of home, of his large, soft bed, and he stood in the snow for a moment, eyes closed; when he opened them he found his cock had thickened, despite the wind and the chill. Mjolnir, never cold despite the icy blast, was now warm and humming against his thigh.

 

He commiserated with it, and with her, for a moment, before moving on, and up towards the peak. He was close now.

 

0

 

Shortly after that first day spent together, playing with sticks and learning one another’s favourites (Loki’s favourite colour was white, Thor’s was red; Loki’s favourite food was steak, Thor’s were pears; Loki’s favourite animal was a spider, Thor’s was a falcon) they had been given a room to share.

 

Thor had never shared anything with anyone before. Up until that point, all things had been his. His had been the best tutors, the finest food, the most extravagant presents. He had been perfectly content, perfectly spoiled. Before he was introduced to his brother, he had assumed that Loki was his too. Loki, he had predicated, would adore him. Loki would want to borrow his toys, maybe ride his beautiful grey pony, and Thor, as a good older brother, would magnanimously allow him to do so.

 

Then he had actually met Loki, taken his measure, and understood that he had everything wrong. If Loki had been simply a brother, Loki would have been his. But Loki was, clearly, a girl. He was far too pretty and delicate not to be a girl. And, as Frigga had explained to him, girls were not things you could simply have.

 

Girls were things you had to win.

 

(Actually, she hadn’t phrased it like that. But that was what Thor had heard.)

 

And so Thor had set out to win his new sister.

 

First, he had attempted to impress her with his martial prowess. He couldn’t fight Loki, obviously- you didn’t fight girls, unless they were Sif, who was a boy in every way that counted- and so he called upon his friends. Checking regularly to make sure his small, green-eyed sister’s gaze never wavered, he had knocked Fandral’s wooden sword from his hands, then wrestled Hogun onto his back. It was hard to say if any of this impressed Loki, who neither laughed nor frowned.

 

Thor had offered her a ride on his pony. This, Loki had clearly enjoyed, and the tiny smile she gave as Stormcloud broke into a trot had flooded Thor with a sense of victory so intense that he had gifted the pony to his sister then and there.

 

But now he was out of ideas - what was there beyond fighting and giving presents? Thor had consulted Fandral, who professed, at the age of twelve, to know everything there was to know about girls.

 

The next time he had come upon Loki, he had dropped into a courtly bow, taken her hand and kissed it.

 

Fandral and Volstagg had teased him about it for the next ten, twenty, two hundred years, but it had had the desired effect. Loki had allowed Thor to escort her round the gardens, one hand held out lightly, as he had watched Mother and Father do many times before. The next day, Thor had picked wildflowers and presented them to his sister at table that night. In return, Loki had acquiesced to play with him and his friends the next day. Thor had been delighted to find that his new little sister was very good at playing games. A scurrilous cheat, but that only made her more interesting; Sif never cheated.

 

“They do like to shout, don’t they?” Loki had said one day in obvious disapproval, watching Hogun tackle Fandral to the ground.

 

Worried that his friends might not live up to Loki’s expectations, Thor had blustered, “Fandral can speak five languages. And Sif can do sums!”

”Sums,” his sister had repeated.

 

“Aye!” Thor said, proudly. “Very difficult ones!”

 

“I can do sums,” said Loki, and grimaced as Fandral came charging up, mud flying from his boots.

 

Thor had known that his sister was fiercely jealous of his friends, but he couldn’t very well get rid of them. “They were here first,” he’d explained.

 

There had been a tournament arranged for the young boys of Asgard, with wrestling matches, foot races and riding competitions. Thor had entered all, and won two (the foot race had gone Sif.) Mother had been displeased with his conduct.

 

“It was not proper for you to ask your brother for his favour,” she said, that evening, while Thor crowed of his victory. “You should have asked little Amora. Or Sif.”

Thor didn’t like little, sharp-smiled Amora, and the thought of asking Sif was absurd. Sif was a boy. Thor knew very well that boys did not ask other boys for favours. It would be weird.

 

He tugged at the small, green piece of cloth Loki had tied around his wrist and wondered what he had done wrong. “But I’ve seen the older warriors asking maidens for favours before riding off to battle,” he said. “And he did not mind.”

(He’d learned by now that referring to Loki as ‘she’ in front of his parents was unwise. They persisted in the delusion that Loki was a boy. Which was simply unreasonable; she didn’t do any of the things boys did, she was clean all the time and she LOOKED like a girl. Thor wondered why Mother and Father could not see it.)

 

Even when they had both become men, Thor was unable to entirely rid himself of the habit of offering his brother his arm when they were walking alone together.

 

0

 

Two thirds of the way to the peak, he came upon a family of frost giants.

 

He knew they were a family by the two younglings that huddled by the feet of the two larger ones, although neither parent had any of the womanly qualities he would have associated with a mother. Perhaps frost giants had no mothers.

 

The children – he could not guess their age. They were only as tall as he, and carried no clubs, but both were thick with baby fat, reminding him of seal cubs. A thin layer of white fuzz covered their bare arms and legs, and they flashed ice-white baby teeth at him.

 

(Loki, he thought suddenly, had rushed through puberty at a startling rate. In the space of a month, Thor’s sister’s limbs had lengthened, her voice had broken and she had grown almost as tall as Father. Suddenly Frigga had found herself warding off advances from women who had been stricken by the lithe figure and comely face of a child of twelve who had, for all intents and purposes, the body of a man. She had not been successful, and Thor had often wondered if that was the reason why, by the time he and Loki were both old enough to go courting with their mother’s approval- seventeen and sixteen, respectively- his brother had seemed so bored by all the flirtation, the illicit trysts and proudly worn bite marks which had been, for Thor, so wonderfully new and exciting.

 

For his part, Thor’s voice had taken the better part of a year to break; he had been fifteen before he’d caught up to his brother in height after that initial spurt, and throughout the years, had consoled himself with the fact that he, at least, had been able to come up with a decent crop of body hair, a blessing which had bypassed Loki entirely. Lending strength to his conviction that Loki was a girl.)

 

The frost giants were not inclined to fight, not once one of them recognised either his hammer or the colour of his hair, and placed a restraining hand on the other’s shoulder. He- she?- snarled, and they exchanged quick, tense words that did not reach his ears. One reached into a bag over his-or-her shoulder, took something out and threw it at the Odinson’s feet. Then the larger ones seized up the smaller ones, and disappeared into falling snow.

 

The last he saw of them, they were running down the mountain, covering terrain that had taken him days to scale in seconds.

 

At his feet were a handful of uncut rubies, a gold chain, and a small, painted sheep carved from stone, about the length of his arm. Or perhaps it was a horse; the craftsmanship was not of the highest quality. A children’s toy, he thought, inspecting it. Thor wondered where Jotnar had gotten the idea that wandering Asgardian warriors were easily distracted by shiny things. Then he thought of his father’s treasure room, and decided that it was not an unreasonable assumption.

 

As he resumed his climb, it occurred to him that he hadn’t considered attacking them, even before he’d seen the children. He had spent the entire encounter planning on how to step around them. Proud of himself, he tied the sheep – or horse – to his pack, and secured the rubies in his pockets. If he met them again on the way down, he would return them, he decided.

 

It would not do for the Jotnar to continue in their apparent belief that the son of Odin was a petty bandit.

 

0

 

How old had he been, the first time he’d been taken? Twenty-seven mortal years, no more, not yet strong enough to hoist Mjolnir above his head, and the warrior had been well into his sixth millennia. It had been the final day of a tournament held in his mother’s honour, and he had shown his devotion by laying out every older warrior who came at him, even Eykr, a veteran of his father’s earliest campaigns. Battle lust had fogged his thoughts in the final bout, and Eykr was known for his canniness; while they had wrestled, both of them shirtless and exhausted, he had pressed his thigh into Thor’s groin. At the sharp gasp this had coaxed from the younger man, he grinned. Thor ended the match in the next few seconds, throwing his opponent onto his back.

 

After, he’d been deeply embarrassed, stalking about his room with his arms folded tight over his chest. Thor often hardened in battle. Never so much so that he’d thought others might notice. The thought of another warrior, another of FATHER’S warriors noticing…

 

Then Eykr had visited him.

 

The young prince had been reticent at first, greeting his guest with the bare bones of formality, trying to pretend that he wasn’t anxious for him to leave. Thankfully, Eykr had not made him wait long before making some casual remark as to… whatever it had been. An insult, anyway. They’d gone at each other like animals, snarling and cursing. Thor couldn’t remember which one them had initiated the ugly kiss that had pushed them across the line between fighting and fucking. What surprised Thor later was that he’d let Eykr win, let him push him onto his stomach and enter him with neither permission nor preparation.

 

Thor was young at the time, and not wise, but he was sharp enough to glean that the extraordinary pleasure he had derived from the encounter had not been rooted in Eykr himself, who had come before he had, pulled back while Thor was still moaning whorishly, patted him on the head and back and left without another word.

 

He had been killed in battle a few weeks later. By then, Thor had tested his newly discovered perversion with three others, and learned that the sweetness of rough play was magnified by the tenderness his lovers showered him with in the aftermath. He never had difficulty seeking out those who could be sufficiently cruel in one instant, and satisfyingly kind in the next. He had been told it was because he had a face like a young puppy. “You want to smack it every time it misbehaves,” said Tyr, who had been his fourth playmate, and one of the most successful. “But then when it’s whimpering you want to pick it up and rub behind its ears.”

 

0

 

He was drunk.

 

Another grain of anger at that. Thor had travelled far and long, and had been desperate for a good fight to take the edge off his nerves, the stiffness from his limbs. Mjolnir cautioned him against rash action, for his brother’s sake as well as his own, but he could feel that she, too, was disappointed.

 

Thor loved to fight, more than anyone he knew; more, even, than Hogun. Thor had led men into battle and been exposed to all the horrors of war, and not once had it slaked his thirst for the fray. Thor loved to fight in the way that other men loved to fuck. Two days or more without a decent spar and his temper took a sharp turn for the worst. And here was his nemesis, cornered at last in his cavernous lair, and so well intoxicated that it took a push from Thor’s index finger to send his sprawling back.

 

He leapt to his feet quickly enough, and they had a perfunctory scuffle, before Loki tried to run. Disgusted, Thor had flung Mjolnir at him, and had watched with satisfaction as the hammer had slammed into the back of his head. A heavy blow from any other weapon; from Mjolnir, it was no more than a gentle kiss, and she giggled as she flew back to his hand.

 

“That was for destroying Stark’s suit,” he said, swinging the hammer loosely as he approached his prone nemesis.  There, one minor offence justly punished. Only three hundred or so to go.

 

Getting a closer look, Thor was appalled at the state of him. His hair was unwashed and his fingernails were black with grit. His helmet, worst of all, was unpolished, suggesting to one who knew him that he’d been drunk for a long time.

 

“You look like a vagrant,” he told him, rolling him onto his back and checking that the blow had not actually spilled his brains. It hadn’t.

 

Thor sat down heavily on the floor and waited for him to recover. He had a flash of inspiration, and placed Mjolnir down on his chest, much as he had on the Bifrost. She sighed at the feel of her captive’s heartbeat, for she loved Loki as much as Thor did.

 

“No more running,” he muttered. “I’m sick to death of it. Do you have any idea how many mountains you made me climb? I have not been bedded in three months, you hideous monster.”

 

Irritable, he made a fire, and unlaced his boots for the first time in weeks, gasping with relief as his toes wriggled free. His snow-covered furs he removed and hung beside the fire. Warmth creeping back into his fingers, he thought about how much he wanted to punch someone. Someone like the Hulk; there was a man you could rely on to go ten rounds without tiring.

 

In lieu of someone to fight, he was willing to accept someone bending him over and flogging him. Then pulling his hair back, tight, like the reins on a stallion, as his arse was spread and filled, someone to fuck him deep and deliciously slow…

 

The heat made him drowsy, and he opened his eyes with effort. Loki’s lair was exactly as he might have expected it. Too much so; in layout, decoration and content it was nigh identical to the neat, elegant bedroom he had had as a child, which Thor had crept into many a night to play games, or to request help with his studies. Thor wondered if the effect was intentional, designed to hurt him, and then decided that Loki could not be that cruel.

Lying to himself; his beloved brother was the cruellest of a cruel, cruel family, and that had once been what Thor loved best about him.

 

0

 

By the time Thor found his brother, he was angry.

 

He had never been at his best when he was angry.

 

More than pride, more than pigheadedness, Thor’s temper had always been his problem.

 

His passion for drink and battle, his arrogance, his fondness for taking multiple lovers to bed with him at once- all of those had been things he’d shared with Fandral, with Sif, with Volstagg. With all the warriors of Asgard, to a greater or lesser degree, for they were all cut from the same brutal, hearty cloth. But his temper had differentiated him.

 

The first time he’d realised this had been when he was fourteen, when, in a fit of violent peak, the young prince had struck his mother’s face when she had twisted his ear in front of his friends to punish him for .

 

He had not meant to do so. But it had been done, all the same.

 

Once it had been done, he had run away from home.

 

Frigga herself had found him, seven days later, near death in a puddle out in the marshlands. Wiping mud from his face and giving him slivers of apple to chew on, she had told him the story of her own grandmother, a Valkyrie, whose wrath had been so terrifying that even her own family had lived in fear of it. Thor had listened, a rare thing for him. A faint red mark was visible on his mother’s face, an image he would carry with him for the rest of time.

 

Frigga had stroked his hair as he’d sniffled in her lap, and assured him that it was a curse he shared with Odin. And Thor had felt better, for there was nothing to be ashamed of in sharing the faults of so great a man as his father.

 

But from that day on he’d tried. He came to view his rage as a snake that lived somewhere in the region of his stomach, still as a rock right up until the moment someone trod on its tail unknowing, whereupon it would rear up and shoot forth his gleaming fangs.

 

Whenever the snake reared up within him, he stalked away from the offending party and sought out a mountain to clobber. Whenever his heart seemed to beat too fast, and his fists refused to unclench, he’d quietly growl a warning to whosoever was foolish enough to approach him. Loki received the same warning, but never heeded it. Others departed; Loki would sit, and listen to him rave, and then talk in his cool, quiet voice until Thor felt as though he could breathe again.

 

He had envied Loki that deep well of calm that kept him steady in any storm.

 

It had never dawned on him that his brother might be harbouring, deep inside his skin, the same mindless, white-hot cord of rage, just waiting for the chance to strike. It had never dawned on him that the one person who shared his curse might be bookish, battleshy Loki. And when he had found out the truth, all of the truth, there had been a moment when, before being horrified, before being outraged, before being heartbroken, he’d been helplessly, desperately happy.

 

0

 

As lairs went, it was, Thor admitted, not a bad one. The temperature was far less cold than it should have been, probably because the whole place stank of magic. His brother had never suffered discomfort gladly, and while cold did not affect him as much as it did Thor, he was not entirely immune to it.

 

There was a bed, golden and laden with furs, and a cauldron, and a scrying pool, and a huge cache of food and wine, and an equally huge cache of gruesome magical supplies- eyes and feet from birds and beast unknown to him, and countless jars of herbs. There was a flute, and a small magpie in a cage, and a wide hearth which brought forth glorious green flames whenever Thor fed it one of the tiny twigs from a gilded box nearby. There was a hot spring, large enough to accommodate five men, with a small bonsai tree growing out of a dish.

 

“No concubines or library, then?” Thor asked over one shoulder, as he finished inspecting the room for traps. Mjolnir was helpful in that regard; perched on Loki’s chest, she gave a sound comparable to a wifely tongue cluck every time he found one. “No small orchestra to entertain you while you scheme?”

 

Loki had awoken, but was refusing to speak, arms locked at his sides, eyes fixed on the stalactites above. Most likely nursing a hangover, Thor decided.

 

As he crushed another trap with his bare hands (a man-sized pitcher plant that had been the size of a daisy until he had poked it, whereupon it had reared up, ballooned and tried to devour him whole), Thor sorted through his thoughts.

 

His brother was here. His brother was his.

 

Now, what to do with him?

 

If Thor dragged back to Asgard for a trial, he would escape. Simple as that. Thor might clap him in irons, gag him, put him in a crate, it mattered not, he would escape. And beyond that, Thor didn’t want to give him to Asgard. The crimes he had committed had not been against Asgard – some he had even heard argue that he had done Asgard a favour by taking to spoiled boy-king down a peg, and putting the frost giants in their place.

 

Loki’s crimes were crimes against him. It was fitting that he should be the one to decide on the manner of his punishment. So then. How to punish him?

 

A million possibilities ran through Thor’s mind, each one quickly dismissed as too soft, or too cruel, or too difficult to implement.

 

His thoughts were disrupted by the growl of his stomach. Food! When had he last had food? Loki had food, somewhere in this lair of his, he could smell it.

 

First food, then to decide on a proper punishment. In the meanwhile, he could leave Loki like that, sulking at him. The hammer wasn’t hurting him, and he couldn’t hurt her. On the contrary, Mjolnir spoke to Thor in a low, molten voice of how much she enjoyed the feel of Loki’s body trapped beneath her once more.

 

Food wasn’t the only urgent matter to be attended to, he reminded himself, glancing down.

 

0

 

While he was aware of the role he had played in their estrangement and had sympathy for Loki’s alienation and unhappiness, Thor had no sympathy for Loki’s envy. His proclaimed desire to be Thor’s EQUAL had driven the Odinson to roll his eyes when he thought back on it objectively.

 

Once, at thirteen, Thor had been called upon by a tutor to recite a chapter from a book by heart. Beaming, Thor had leapt to his feet. He had foregone two hours training the previous day for the purposes of memorising that chapter, reciting the words until he felt he could say them backwards, in song. But when he had opened his mouth – he still stung at the memory- he had found them missing. He could recall the ideas, the meaning of the words, but the straight-from-the-book recital that he had worked so hard to perfect… it was all gone. He had panicked for the first time in his life, sweat breaking out over his brow, lips quivering as he sought in vain for one word, just one. The scolding had been humiliating, but worse had been his tutor’s words to Father that evening. “He is hopeless, sire. I have done my best. But there is nothing in him.”

 

Loki had been the only one he had allowed to see him weep, in the safety of their shared bedroom late at night. “How can I be king?” he sniffed, “when Father thinks me stupid as dung? You will be king, brother!”

Loki had assured him that that would never happen, but had promised that, if it did, he would retain Thor’s services. “You can be my horse,” he said, petting Thor’s hair. “I will make a saddle for you.”

 

A day later, his tutor had met with a mysterious accident that broke both his legs, and he left the palace to recuperate at a villa in the countryside. His replacement had been far more patient with Thor, and had emphasised an understanding of concepts over word-perfect recitation. Not long after, Thor had finally lifted Mjolnir, and begun training with her. Suddenly, his weak memory and sludge-like wit were no longer of great consequence.

 

0

 

Thor was halfway through raiding Loki’s supplies, among which he found the remainder of the hard liquor his brother had been steadily sampling, when Loki spoke.

 

“Three months, Thor? A new record, surely. You couldn’t find a mountain goat of sufficient girth and stamina?”

“There are no mountains goats in Jotunheim,” Thor said, tartly. “Although if there were you’d have already spoiled them for yourself.”

He stood up too quickly, realising as the floor bent beneath him that he should have eaten more of the meat before starting on the beer. Lumbering over to Loki, he contemplated him briefly before dropping down to straddle his hips. As he had done when they were young men, and he had just come to terms with the fact that Loki was, despite all evidence to the contrary, not a girl.

 

Only for Loki to throw his world into disarray again by kissing him hard and true, as Thor was about to declare his victory in their spar. 

 

“You look scarcely better than a goat yourself, silvertongue,” he said now, stroking the lobe of one of Loki’s small ears, thinking; I missed you.

 

Loki bleated, softly, making him laugh. Arching over Mjolnir, he kissed his mouth, and grinned as it opened fractionally beneath him.

 

Then Loki shifted into his true form.

 

Outside the mountain lair, an avalanche was shaken free by Thor’s screams.

 

0

 

He was not too proud to admit it. There was a portion of his rage, a considerable portion, that was rooted less in the shock of betrayal and less in the grief of his splintered family, and more in the fact that, dammit, he’d been looking FORWARD to being king.

 

He’d spent years anticipating that ceremony, picturing the exact moment of his coronation. The moment he could look to his father and see that he saw him, not as a spoiled, bad-tempered boy who had once struck his mother, but a man, regal and responsible and…

 

And why had he ruined it all for himself? (For he had, he saw that; Loki’s plan had rested entirely on his ability to predict his brother’s every clotheaded action.) Because he had been angry, angry that his ceremony had been interrupted. He was still angry. Unworthy as it was, in his deepest heart there was a small boy, curled up in the corner of his room, sniffling and sulking because he hadn’t had the party he’d been promised. And that made him angry too, to think that he was that self-centred, that he could still care about something so stupid after losing his brother (except he’d got him back, albeit stranger than ever) and losing the woman he loved (well, liked. Liked very much.)

 

Thor had, ever since joining the Avengers, worked himself to the bone to restrain his anger, although it seemed there was more of it than ever. At times, he found himself too angry to speak without shouting, so he had elected not to speak. His friends had spoken in worried murmurs of his newfound reticence. He avoided Father entirely after that meeting on the balcony when they had made amends. And still his thoughts kept returning to the coronation. He had spent weeks watching them prepare the throne room, and the feast. He had asked Loki for his opinion on dozens of different capes and sets of armour.

 

And he had spent the previous year trying to adopt a new manner of speaking; similar in kind to his father’s, slow, clear, every word weighted before being allowed out. He’d adjusted his manner of walking from a warrior’s stride into a more dignified, kingly tread. He had kept, above all things, a tight leash on his temper, never once lashing out at fools who contradicted or challenged him. He could see Odin watching him, approving, and had felt that he had finally moved out from the shadow of his badly behaved childhood.

 

Then, in one fell swoop, he had ruined everything.

 

Following Loki’s fall and Thor’s return, Father had not spoken once of stepping down, as had originally been his intent. The thought had dawned on Thor had perhaps he had lost his chance forever.

 

0

 

His tongue had not been in his brother’s mouth, but his lips were burned black, and one of his teeth had shattered. Resentfully, he consumed an apple, feeling the tooth repairing itself, while Loki chuckled and used the limited degree of movement available to him to blow Thor a mocking kiss.

 

In a foul mood, he left the hammer in place, and took himself to Loki’s living quarters, where he lay down upon the rough furs that covered his bed, and was asleep in seconds.

 

When he awoke, the frostbite on his lips was less agonising, and his head felt clearer than it had for weeks. 

 

He was also hard.

 

He hadn’t taken the time to tend to himself for the weeks he’d been in Jotnar territory in the driving wind and hail, when even pissing had become a race to get it out and back in as quickly as possible, before frost gathered on the tip. Now he felt empty and hungry. He wanted to be filled, he wanted…

 

He could tend to himself now, assuage his temper by defiling Loki’s bed.

 

Oh. But he didn’t have to, did he?

There was the matter of persuading Loki…

 

When he strode back into the cave, Loki was asleep, snoring. Perhaps the chase had been exhausting for him, too. Amused, Thor remembered how strange it once felt, to go to sleep in the arms of a powerful, silk-lipped mage who could break his will with but a word, and to wake up beside a skinny, snoring man who was unfailingly ratty when Thor’s wet kisses woke him up.

 

His brother had ever been a light sleeper, and his eyes sprung open at Thor’s approach. Sprung wider when he saw that Thor had discarded the majority of his smelly clothes, and strolled by with nothing to protect his modesty but his cape, swaddling his hips.

 

“A fine morning,” Thor greeted him, inhaling deeply, his words belied by the frenzied, gale-tossed whiteness at the cave mouth. “I believe I shall rid myself of the filth that chasing you has caked between my toes.”

 

He cast the cape aside, theatrically, and walked as slowly as he could to the steaming hot spring. Lowering himself in, he gave an exaggeratedly loud groan of pleasure, as though he’d just been breached after an hour’s stretching. He kept up a litany of soft, orgasmic sighs as he scrubbed the dried sweat from his neck and shoulders, and soothed the blisters on his feet. All the while smiling, cat-like. And this, he thought to himself, is for threatening the fair Lady Jane, brother.

 

It had taken him years to realise that Loki thought he was beautiful. Thor hadn’t understood it at first. Women were beautiful. His body was a warrior’s. His scars were worn with pride, not for their own sake, but for the experience they denoted.

 

Thor knew he was beautiful now. Odin had been the one to gift Thor with viciousness and pride. Loki had been the one to turn him vain. Loki had taught him to grow his hair long, comb it straight and let it fall fetchingly about his face, douse it in scented water; before, he’d raked his fingers through it, tied it back with a piece of string and thought no more about it. Before Loki had become a regular feature between his sheets, he’d never had stood naked in front of his own mirror, turning this way and that, admiring the sleek muscles in his calves, the flatness of his belly. Loki had ordered him to touch himself while in front of that mirror a thousand times, while he lounged on Thor’s bed, watching. Slowly, Thor had fallen in love with the sight of his own bare flesh, and had begun to realise that the lustful glances he incurred from Sif and Fandral’s quarter were not solely because of the strength of his arms.

 

And slowly, he had learned how to use his body’s beauty as a weapon, as well as he used its strength. He made a production of cleaning himself, as showy and artless as a tavern wench. But it had the desired effect; when he glanced back, Loki was hard, and staring at him.

 

0

 

Thor had finally conceded once and for all that his brother was, in fact, his brother, not his sister, when Loki became taller than he during that first, unnaturally fast growth spurt. But he carried in his heart the conviction that Loki was, if not a woman in form, then certainly a woman in spirit; much as Sif was, he was certain, a man in spirit.

 

(He had once put this idea to Sif. She had regarded him in disgust, and ignored him for many days, which he still didn’t understand.)

 

So; Loki was, in strictly biological terms, male. In terms of temperament, habit, dress, manner, speech, wit and movement, he was entirely female. This was Thor’s belief, and he held to it until they were two hundred and one hundred and ninety-nine respectively. That was when he first saw his brother command a regiment. Not the first time such a thing had occurred, but the first time their men had marched shoulder-to-shoulder, giving each brother an opportunity to note the other’s style of leadership.

 

Thor had prepared a list of helpful pieces of advice the night before. Many of the those under Loki’s command were men that he himself had lead before, and he knew their courage, their coarseness and their lack of patience. His brother was a fine man, in many ways (or a fine woman, at least) but Thor could very easily picture the derision he would suffer at the hands of a cluster of brusque, ill-mannered warriors. Thor had decided that he would watch, would take note of those who sneered at Loki behind his back, those who spoke back to him; then, when Loki was not looking, he would seek them out in the mess later and have words with them.

 

But Loki would need to know how to inspire men without his aid. And so, a helpful list.

 

Number 1: Eat with the men, at their table, not on a silk cushion in your tent.

 

Number 7: Remove all pieces of jewellery before presenting yourself to them.

 

Number 13: Do not make eye contact with Darri, he is brave and true, but his eyes sometimes see the faces of enemies on the bodies of friends. Avoid eye contact and don’t try to make him go anywhere near water and you will be fine.

 

Number 45: I know you are a woman in spirit. Try not to let them find out.

 

Then he had watched Loki before the men. He wore his gold bracelets, gold earrings and soft, fancy shoes. He ate on a pillow in his tent, exotic, delicate dishes of foreign fish and fruit, while Thor and the men tore strips of meat from roasted hogs with their bare hands. He never raised his voice as he spoke to them, so those at the back couldn’t hear what was going on at the front, and had to ask their fellows to repeat his orders.

 

And when his brother stepped in front of them, every one of them, even Darri, snapped instantly to attention and executed the a smarter, more precisely synchronised salute than any Thor had ever been able to coax from his men. Over the next seven days, Thor watched them fling themselves in front of spears for his brother, fling themselves onto spears for him. Near half of them died – Loki’s lack of regard for casualties was alarming – but the day was won thrice as fast as Thor had dared hope.

 

And Thor could tell why. Because after half an hour of watching Loki issue commands, in his soft, firm voice, he wanted only to have Loki speak to HIM like that. In a way that made one ache for his approval, dread his displeasure. And they did, too. Loki issued compliments just as often as criticism, and when he did, the lucky warrior’s chest would swell, and he would spend the evening around the campfire boasting of it to Thor and the others. Not one of them had a doubt that Loki was in control of everything, that his plans would work and that, whatever happened, they would be taken care of, even though Loki was young and untested.

 

This magic faded when they were out from under his command for a few days, whereupon they would come sharply back to themselves, and blush to think of how they had hung upon the words of a skinny boy-mage. Rumours began to circulate that Loki used wizardry on any men he commanded, to make their minds bend to his will. Loki made not attempt to correct the rumour. If anything, it appeared to amuse him. This was one of the reasons why Loki had enjoyed an undistinguished military career.

 

Thor remembered the first time his strange, quiet brothersister had fucked him. They had been on campaign in the territory of some lowly Alfheim lord. Thor had made several outstanding diplomatic blunders while in conference with their elvish allies, reversing the many hours Loki had spent in getting them to the negotiating table. Loki had been, to put it mildly, furious.

 

This came at the end of Loki’s first crusade to seduce him, ongoing from the moment of that first kiss he had stolen from Thor’s lips as they sparred. It had been working, in that Thor now spent every moment he wasn’t thinking about battle plans thinking about Loki’s legs. That night, however, Loki had done away with seduction. He had marched into Thor’s tent, cast a spell which would keep all interruptions away for the next hour, stripped him naked while speaking in a low, throaty voice of all the work Thor had just undone, and of how disappointed he was.

 

Thor had been a man by that stage, and well acquainted with his own preferences, but he’d been stunned by the way in which his body responded to Loki’s greedy hands and icy words. And his patience! In Thor’s previous encounters with other men, sex had been almost a form of wrestling, a fight which Thor would always pretend to lose quickly, so as to get to the part he enjoyed. Loki did not fight with him, but simply assumed control, taking time spreading him open, and more time penetrating him.

 

On his back, knees drawn up as the dark-haired man thrust into him, Loki’s eyes holding him still and silent, hypnotised, like a bird before a snake. Loki’s expression had been stone, utterly impassive, even when he came, and gods knew how but that had only made it better. When Thor came, his head cracked the board against which it had been resting clean in two.

 

0

 

What he wanted was to lift the hammer, and have Loki bind his hands and mount him. Then caress him, forgive him and take him to bed, that he might fall asleep again in Loki’s arms. And maybe when they awoke Loki would consent to rub the tension from Thor’s back, and tie his hair back into long, silky braids while whispering filthy compliments into his ear.

 

But he wasn’t going to have that. Instead, he had his brother pinned to the ground beneath a lump of starmetal, like a lizard flipped on its back, staring at him poisonously. Thor felt a stab of annoyance. 

 

“Here are the facts, as I see them,” he said, sprawling beside his brother, skin still steaming from the spring. Privately indulging himself in his scent. “You have committed a crime against Jotunheim. There is no punishment that the Jotnar would accept but your head, and I will not give them that. So you cannot be punished on Jotunheim. You have committed subsequent crimes on Midgard. But there is no Midgardian cell that could hold you. You have committed a crime on Asgard, and we do have cells that could hold you. For a time, at least. But what good would it do? You would take nothing away from the experience, except a new reason to resent me. It would heal nothing between us, nor would it appease those you have offended on Midgard or Jotunheim.”

He rolled onto his back and folded one leg over the other, steepling his fingers to t he roof of the cave. Feeling devious and wondering if this was how Father felt all the time. “The only people, as I see it, that you have offended on Asgard are myself, Father, potentially Mother, Heimdall and the Warriors Three. Father has decided to pretend you don’t exist. Mother has forgiven you. Heimdall holds no grudge against anything of woman born, for he is a higher being than we. The Warriors Three criticize you only as far as I permit them to, and if I ordered them to forgive you they would do it without hesitation. The primary source of their anger is the offence you committed against me.”

He rolled onto his front, his face now hovering above his brother’s. “Which brings us to me. If you cannot be punished on Jotunheim, you cannot be punished on Midgard, and there is no one in Asgard with a will to punish you but myself, I would hypothesise that it falls to ME to select the nature of your punishment. Not so, cow?

 

He lowered his face until his hair was draped around Loki’s head like a veil and their noses were touching. “And I have no desire to drag you back to Asgard for a farcical trial in which you would outwit every accuser until someone had the good sense to gag you.”

 

Because I am not absolutely sure what Odin would do to you if I did, he did not say. When he was crowned – if he was crowned, he thought, darkly – his first action as king would be to drag Loki back to Asgard, stick him and Father in a room with no doors and leave them there until each one understood the harm he had done the other.

 

“But I didn’t come all this way just to let you go free,” he said. “So, then. My offer is this; I will remove the hammer as and when you tell me exactly where you have hidden the shield.”

Stealing the captain’s weapon had been the ultimate in pettiness. There was nothing Loki could hope to gain from it, and its loss had affected Steve Rogers deeply. Of all Thor’s mortal friends, barring Jane and Darcy, Rogers was his favourite. He had suffered much already, and Thor did not know why Loki had singled him out to bully.

 

“Also,” said Thor, “I wish to take you in my mouth. May I?”

 

It was probably Loki’s approval of Thor’s blossoming diplomatic skills that prompted his skin to turn pale and his eyes to turn green, rather than any sign of reconciliation between them. Still, it was a start. Thor grinned, and kissed his cheek.

 

It was hard to ignore his vulnerability as he lowered himself. If Loki retuned to his true form now, the spiteful pain he had inflicted on Thor earlier would be nothing by comparison. However cognisant he was of the danger, though, Thor felt weeks of tension and concern fade away as the taste of Loki’s cock filled his mouth. A sense of rightness stole over him; at last, this was where he was supposed to be, this was his duty, the privilege his brother allowed him

 

Old rules clicked into place without his thinking about them, and he refrained from touching himself. Not until he was allowed. To do so before obtaining allowance would be ungrateful. Thor wasn’t ungrateful. Thor was good. Thor was good, good at following orders, good at giving his beloved pleasure, he was so, so good…

 

Even with Mjolnir fixing his torso in place, Loki’s legs were long enough to wrap around Thor’s back.

 

0

 

From the very first, Loki had clearly not expected Thor’s enthusiasm to last.

 

Thor knew how his brother thought. Soon, Loki would be thinking, soon Thor’s pride would begin to chafe at being his being bent over by one such as Loki Liesmith. Soon, the novelty of their games would fade, and Thor would return to buggering men his own size and shape.

 

But Thor had never found his role in their games at all shameful, and was stung by Loki’s lack of faith. Had he ever given Loki reason to think him so changeable?

 

0

 

Loki’s lying, silver tongue could make the weaker argument outweigh the stronger, could make truth into a nebulous, shifting thing. It was a tongue that had broken empires and burned cities.

 

What was less commonly noted, although more astonishing, as far as Thor was concerned, was his brother’s ability to not. Say. Anything. Not one word had he uttered since Thor had made his offer, which he thought was an extremely generous one, all things considered.

 

Thor decided to view it as an exercise in patience. An opportunity to make up for the rashness and bullheadedness that had cost him his coronation, and, possibly, his crown. What he WANTED to do was to lift Mjolnir, allow Loki to take up Gungnir, and have a good, hard fight, that would leave them bloody, drained and better disposed towards one another. And then a good, hard fuck, to burn away whatever bad blood remained between them. That was what he WANTED.

 

But what he KNEW was that his tendency to attempt to remedy every problem he encountered with a fight or a fuck was exactly the problem. If he lifted Mjolnir, Loki might indulge him with a duel; he might also flee.

 

No. Thor had taken it upon himself to be his brother’s warden until such time as he had repented for his crimes. Thor would overcome his own impatience, would overcome his temper, he would, he WOULD.

 

So when Loki refused to divulge the location of the shield for three days, Thor stifled h is rage, and returned to the hot springs. He availed himself of Loki’s bed, Loki’s wine, and a few of the less intensely boring tomes. It was almost pleasant. Had it not been for the fact of Loki himself, pinned to the icy floor and humming annoying tunes in the background while he read or ate, Thor would have thoroughly enjoyed the break from the chaos of Midgard.

 

Loki could survive months without food, probably years. But Thor had no desire to eat while his brother went hungry. He cut off a bit of dried deer meat from his limited supplies, and offered it to Loki. Loki, saying nothing but holding his gaze, accepted the morsel into his mouth, and chewed, and swallowed. Thor felt foolish for feeding his brother like a babe, and there were oceans of mockery in Loki’s eyes.

 

This, again, was supposed to be Loki’s role. Whenever he was in a good mood, on lazy, aimless mornings, the slimmer man would tie his brother’s hands behind his back, usually with his cape, which was ensorcelled to function as a shield, and more than strong enough to bind him. Then he’d feed him his breakfast piece by piece, allowing Thor’s lips to brush his fingertips, sometimes darting them inside of Thor’s mouth and then pulling out before Thor could catch them.

 

Now that the boot was on the other foot, Loki extended no such tactile courtesy to him. His teeth snapped shut on the meat, yanking it from Thor’s fingers to be chewed sullenly. It was like feeding a crocodile.

 

Eventually, he had to clean him. As much of him as he could reach, anyway. The dishevelment of his hair displeased Thor, so that was what he tended to first, propping Loki’s head on his knee, wetting his hair in water from the spring, then running his fingers through it to comb it back.

 

There was no way to remove his clothing. So Thor cut his tunic from him with a knife, all save the patch directly underneath Mjolnir, and dragged a wet cloth over his skin.

 

Loki, finally, broke his silence. It warmed Thor’s heart to find that his brother, while much changed since his fall from the Bifrost, was still a brat.

 

“You are PULLING my HAIR.”

“Why don’t you hang a serpent above me and have done with it?”

 

“THOR! I want water.”

 

“How weak you have become.”

 

“THOR! I want mead.”

 

“So gentle. I scarcely recognise you these days. MY brother is a vicious berserker, a god who fights to win and revels in the scent of his enemy’s blood. MY brother does not collect mortal pets to coddle, or prance around playing at heroism before the slack jaws of mindless Midgardians with no concept of what TRUE power is.”

 

“The woman has ruined you, brother. Domesticated you.”

 

“I loved you more before she taught you humility. Did you know that?”

 

“What do you think she would say if she could see you as you WERE, glorious and bloodthirsty, Thor Hallower, the general and warlord, not the costumed show pony for Tony Stark’s personal circus. Perhaps I need to stop sending robots and Skrulls and enchanted skeletons against you. Next time, I shall find you an enemy that can bleed red. Then we will see if she still believes in her handsome, golden prince.”

 

“You know why he sent you to Midgard to learn humility? Because Midgard is the most humble of all realms. They are the ONLY realm hanging from the Yggdrasil that does not even suspect the EXISTENCE of the Yggdrasil. The limitations on their perception are tragic in the extreme.”

“Jane has introduced me to coffee,” Thor remarked. “I like it. And you go too far in your condemnation, Loki. The mortals are a worthy species, for what they are.”

 

“Do not speak that BLOODY woman’s name in front of me,” Loki snarled, clawing at him.

“I speak to her of you often,” Thor said. “I think you would like her if you met her. She is an intellectual of note among the Midgardians.”

 

“A mortal may be intelligent in the eyes of other mortals,” said Loki, “much as an ant may be large and ferocious in the eyes of other ants.”

 

“Cow,” said Thor. “I think the real reason you don’t like her is that she taught me humility in the space of days, whereas you tried for thousands of years and never succeeded.”

“Feathered imbecile,” Loki hissed. “It’s not my fault you are IMPOSSIBLE to TEACH.”

 

Thor resented this rift between them in little ways as well as big ones. If Loki were his brother still, he might have told him of his new friend, of Steve Rogers and the amusing Mr Stark, whom he suspected Loki would have loved to make a conquest of. If Loki hadn’t already met and done battle with his new friends. If Loki hadn’t embarked upon a private, pointless vendetta against all Midgard, he might tell him of the planet’s hidden delights, of stories told through the manipulation of light on flat panels, and of penguins, which had no known equivalent in any of the other eight realms.

 

He tried to coax truth from him. “It is a shield, brother. One shield! You have an entire armoury waiting for you back at home, almost a hundred shields at your disposal.”

He tried bribery. “Tell me where the shield is, and I will gift you a shield from my own, private collection. I will let you have the pick of them.’

 

He tried cajoling. “Is mighty Loki so jealous of the mortals that he needs to ferret away their trinkets for himself?

 

Saying that while he’d been alternately bathing and kissing Loki’s foot had been in error, for Loki reverted to his true form instantly, and Thor found his tongue stuck to his brother’s frozen ankle. Amused, Loki had wiggled his foot back and forth, while Thor made protesting grunts.

 

Loki developed a habit of grabbing at his ankles whenever he passed near enough, trying to trip him up.

 

Once, bored with the whole exercise, Thor tried ignoring him entirely for an hour; his scornful words, his demands for food. The pitch of his voice became higher and higher until he felt it would split the cave ceiling in two. Then it had cracked, and he’d started to cry. That, Thor could not withstand, and went to his side instantly with, proffering wine and apologies. Loki then tried to scratch his eyes out, and they did not speak to one another for the rest of the day.

 

“I’m sorry for ruining your coronation,” Loki said, three days later, while Thor was endeavouring to clean and buff his fingernails; he had no skill for it, his hands were too big, but the sight of the grit beneath them was painful for him to behold.

 

“There was a whole roast boar,” Thor muttered, “almost the size of a horse. And custard. I specifically requested that there be custard, three days in advance, and there was. And Mother had organised three fire dancers and a mermaid.”

 

“Oh,” said Loki.

 

“And I spent HOURS perfecting my beard the night before,” Thor said. “YOU spent hours HELPING ME perfect it. I had written a SPEECH.”

 

Loki bit his lip. “I know. I read it. It was good.”

 

“In truth?”

“In truth. I especially liked the part with the crude flatulence joke. Very kingly.”

“I wanted to be personable.”

 

“Mm.”

 

“I thought you were HAPPY for me,” Thor said, looking down at Loki’s cuticles.

 

Loki sighed. “I spent so much time being happy for you. I was happy when you lifted Mjolnir, I was happy for you when you killed your first frost giant, when you lead your first hunt, when you first discovered your taste for the lash. Always, there is Thor, with his victories and his countless admirers, and there is Loki, standing slightly to the left, looking happy for him. Could you not permit me, just once, to be unhappy for you?”

“Oh, but we are quite the martyr, are we not?” Thor retorted. “And I am suppose to forget all the jealous asides, all the envious looks and the many times you insulted my dignity by…”

“It’s always about YOU, is it not?”

“Don’t give me THAT, you have NO PLACE to…”

“Ah, yes, Loki must ‘know his place’, isn’t that right, mighty Thor, lord of…”

“SHUT UP, you will SHUT…”

 

0

 

The first thing Loki deigned to say to him, after a day and a night of reproachful scowls, was, “THOR! Suck me.”

 

“I am your jailor, not your concubine,” Thro grumbled, and moved to comply.

 

“And she did not tame me,” he whispered, as Loki’s back tried, and failed, to arch. “You did that.”

 

But before he allowed him release, he sat back on his haunches, thoughtful.

 

“Thor,” Loki growled, straining beneath him.

 

“A thought occurs,” Thor said.

 

“THOR.”

“As it stands, I could be here forever. We could be here forever. I have no means of prying truth from your lips.”

Loki cursed, reached down and grasped his cock. Quick as a cat, Thor seized both his wrists in one huge hand, and wrenched his arms up above his head. Then, cautious not to lift her, he slid Mjolnir from Loki’s chest to his shoulder, and down his arm until he could lay her upon both hands at once, pressing Loki’s long fingers down flat.

 

“Don’t bellow so. I propose a game,” he said.

 

That got through to him. Loki loved games like magpies loved gold. “A game?”

“You let me have you, as often as I wish. If I can bring you release in the space of…” Thor considered his brother’s willpower against his skill. “… ten minutes, you will give me the location of the shield.”

Loki thought, then shook his head. “No, that is dull. But the idea is sound. Our game shall be this; you make me cum in under seven minutes, and I shall give you a secret. Any one of my secrets. To make things interesting, it shall be a secret that no one else in all the universe knows.”

Thor nodded, and glanced at Loki’s red cock. “Does this round count, or…”

 

“No,” said Loki. “Ten minutes, from flaccid to ejaculation.”

“Then I shall depart until you are ready for us to begin,” Thor said, and strode away, as Loki threw curses at his back.

 

0

 

He lost the first round. And the second. After the fifth, Loki begged him to leave off until tomorrow, complaining that he ached.

 

The next day, Thor planned more carefully, and won by a margin of nine seconds.

 

“I still have Sif’s hair,” he said. “I keep it in a box. Now and then, I take it out, and brush it.”

“Why?”

“Back to work.”

 

But when Thor had drained him a second time – with two whole minutes to spare – he said, “No, something else. More important.”

“Mother has a lover in each Realm,” Loki said.

 

Thor roared, and slammed Loki’s head into the ground.

 

When he had calmed down, and apologetically dabbed the blood from Loki’s brow, Loki added, “That wasn’t a fair answer. Father knows about them. Mother and Father have been married for thousands of years, Thor. It doesn’t mean they don’t love each other. But there’s only so long you can engage with one set of genitals before your attention starts to wonder.”

 

The third secret Thor was rewarded with came the next day. This time, he had done it without touching anything below Loki’s collarbone, and Loki’s ears, lips, cheeks and neck were red with bitemarks and kisses by the time he won, with thirty seconds to spare.

 

“You were my first,” Loki said, still gasping for breath.

 

“But… you…”

“Not the first I lay with. The first I took.”

 

“I never would have guessed. You seemed so confident.”

“I had to. You seemed so unsure.”

0

 

What infuriated Thor- what had thrilled him when they were first introduced- was the apparent fact that Loki was not really there. His body was there, boy or girl, and his lies were there, and sometimes even his love. But Thor, even Thor the Young, Thor the Arrogant and Careless, had seen that there was a part of his new sibling- a part that often seemed worryingly large- that was absent when they talked, when they sparred, when they were punished. For no punishment ever truly seemed to move Loki. While Thor might rant and rave against the unfairness of being made to clean the kitchens as payment for stealing three savoury cakes, Loki would shrug, and fetch the mop.

 

Upon receiving a beating at the hands of three older boys, he had shrugged and told Thor that it was of no consequence. Upon being told of how Thor had beaten them all senseless and thrown them into a pond, he had shrugged, and said that it changed nothing. (Which had hurt Thor’s feelings considerably, but he concealed that fact in a manly fashion.) There was a quiet, empty space inside his brothersister that neither love nor pain could access, and when he retreated into it, there was no reasoning with him. Thor suspected that whatever had motivated him to cut off Sif’s hair had crawled out of that space. He also thought that the plan to destroy Jotunheim would never have come into being had his brother not stayed in that space too long, without anyone noticing he was there. Which spoke to Thor’s own foolishness and lack of attention, for he alone had always been able to tell when Loki had sunken into his own skin.

 

Thor had never had such a space inside himself. Everything he was, he wore on the outside; everything he suffered, he gave voice to. He could do nothing else.

 

0

 

Since their game had begun, Loki’s demands increased in calibre and frequency.

 

“THOR! Wash my back.”

 

Thor had finally worked out that he could keep him just as efficiently pinned by lifting him up in both arms with Mjolnir resting on his chest. In this manner, he carried him to the water, and, by lashing Mjolnir to his chest with rope so that she did not slide off, was able to give his back a cursory scrubbing. It had to be done quickly, and with skill, for Loki had to remain prone the entire time, to ensure that Mjolnir’s full weight bore down upon him.

 

“THOR! Where are my herbs?”

Thor did not approve of his brother’s herbs, but the fuss he made if deprived of them drowned out the thunder god’s prudential objections. After placing three beneath Loki’s tongue, he went outside and stomped about in the snow until the effects had worn off.

 

He had taken to using Loki as a piece of furniture. At night, he was a pillow. During the day, he was a footrest. When the weather outside became too bitterly cold for Loki’s enchantments to withstand, and ice started to creep in to the cave, he scooped him up, took him to bed and used him as a hot water bottle. Upon Loki’s suggestion, he had moved the hammer to lie upon his knees, or upon his ankles with the handle resting on the floor. This allowed him to sit up, to read and write, and allowed Thor access to his nipples. With regret, Thor decided that he could not turn him onto his back without lifting Mjolnir, so fucking him remained out of the question. He could let Loki fuck him, though, by dragging Mjolnir down to his toes and letting her rest there, while the rest of him reared up and positioned Thor as he wanted him.

 

There was the slightest risk that Loki would sever his own toes rather than submit to this ongoing entrapment, but Thor decided it was worth it.

 

0

 

Two months after he had found him, Loki began to sicken.

 

Thor watched him carefully to see if it was a ruse. But his knowledge of medicine was limited to patching up battle wounds, and his knowledge of frost giant diseases was nonexistent.

 

By the second day, he was forced to admit that Loki was genuinely sick. It came on with speed; Loki, who had lain or sat on the icy cave floor for months now with no ill effect, who had fallen from the Bifrost and survived, now abruptly began to fall apart. His face took on a puffy aspect. Cracks broke out over his lips, no matter how many times Thor ran wet fingers over them.

 

Fever took hold. Delirious, secrets spilled from his mouth, bits of lore and prophecy, half-finished spells that built up in the air around him, gathering charge like a storm waiting to break. At one point, he mumbled, “Thank you for the pony,” and it took Thor a moment to work out what he meant.

 

His breathing was laboured. His skin flickered, from blue to peach, never staying the same colour for more than a minute. Sweat, most worryingly of all, dotted his brow. Thor had never seen Loki sweat.

 

Everything Thor tried to put in his mouth, he vomited out.

 

“I want to play,” Loki said, while Thor was clearing the vomit away, and, for the first time, seriously considering lifting the hammer. “Now.”

“You are not well enough.”

 

“Feathered buffoon. What are you frightened of? That I will be sick on you? I need something to improve my mood. And there is a secret I wish to give you.

“The location of the shield?” Thor said eagerly.

 

“No. More important than that.”

He was as tender as he could be, and Loki sighed in pleasure and exhaustion when he was done.

 

“Your secret?” Thor prompted, when it looked as though he might fall asleep.

 

“Do you recall… the stories our nurse used to tell us?” Loki said. “About the wicked frost giants, who would creep into the houses of the worthy, and steal away babies to eat?”

Thor did. Since he had learned of his brother’s true origin, he had often found himself wondering why Father had not screened their nursemaids more carefully.

 

“She was right,” Loki said, and chuckled, grim as the grave.

 

“No, she wasn’t,” Thor muttered. “You are no monster. You are my brother, and my love, and if you would but give me the location of that blasted shield, I would have you be my bedmate and master once more.”

 

Loki sighed. “I am trying to break this to you gently, Thor, and you’re making it SO difficult.”

“I’m good at that,” Thor said.

 

“You are. I eat manflesh.”

“Thor?”

 

“Thor?”

 

“While that is not the darkest secret you have ever revealed to me, I will concede it to be the most surprising,” Thor said.

 

“Mother used to give me drops of blood from her fingers,” Loki went on. “It took me… oh, years. To work out what it was. I wanted. Not simply want, I need it. I sicken without it. And I researched the topic at length. Intelligence is key. The biological drive, as I understand it, is not for the flesh of an Asgardian, but for the flesh of any creature above a certain level of intelligence. Rock trolls will not do. Asgardians will. There is a bird on Midgard called a parrot; that will do too. On Jotunheim, there is a reptile of comparable intellect, one of the few capable of withstanding the temperature; a snow snake, they have named it. They need not digest it often, one mouthful a month is sufficient. But that one mouthful is vital. Every so often, the snakes’ population levels drop off sharply. No one knows why. But when it happens, those who must go without begin to starve. I believe it was such a famine that lead them to Midgard all those years ago, and to the war that so depleted their numbers that a lack of snakes would never trouble them again.”

 

“… then…” said Thor.

 

“You want to know how I survived? Not only by sucking Mother’s fingers. I had a flock of men and women who would come to my rooms in the dead of night. I would cut pieces from them, and then cast an enchantment that would make those pieces grow back the next day. I paid them in gold and silver, and I told them that of they did not keep my secret I would murder their families. I was so terrified that you might find out.”

 

“… and…”

“I had no idea what it was. I assumed it was a side effect of a spell gone wrong. It is not so uncommon for green magicians to place a curse upon themselves. Discovering the truth of myself explained so much.”

 

“… huh.”

 

“And there you have it. Am I a monster now, brother?”

 

Thor half-shrugged. “You seem so determined to have me think you one, I am almost inclined to indulge you. Bor’s blood. How many secrets you have kept from me. You, and mother, and father. How very stupid I am, compared to my family. No wonder Father will not give the crown.”

 

“Who else is he going to give it to? Volstagg?

 

“You need meat,” said Thor. “Wait.”

 

0

 

After ten hours of snake hunting, Thor gave up and returned.

 

“Had you tarried but a moment, I would have told you that they are all but extinct on this side of the planet,” Loki said, as he sat down beside him and toed off his boots. “You will need to go to the northern hemisphere. The journey could take you weeks.”

“And you don’t have weeks,” Thor said, “do you?”

For a steady, off-white corruption was now visible, spreading beneath the thin blue skin on Loki’s wrists and elbows.

 

“I swear before the nine branches, if you don’t magic them back…” Thor muttered, and retrieved his hunting knife. It took him five minutes to sharpen the blade to his satisfaction; one teeth-gritting second to cut off his index finger.

 

As soon as he placed it within an inch of Loki’s mouth, his brother’s head shot up and took the whole of it into his mouth at once. He hardly seemed to chew before swallowing, and when he was done, he smacked his lips obscenely.

 

Of course it wasn’t enough.

 

Thor would not let his brother starve. He wouldn’t let him go, either. And he had a feeling that this was a game, a cruel game, of the sort his brother was most talented at.

 

He cut off both index fingers; five toes and his left earlobe, watching each disappear into Loki’s greedy maw before his brother let him know that he’d won this round. A warm glow suffused his maimed foot, his hand and his ear, and within a moment all were whole again, the restored digits pink and a glow with health.

 

He would probably be cutting them off again soon enough, he realised.

 

0

 

Loki’s health improved immediately. His temper did not.

 

“THOR! I want your flesh.”

 

There was something…. HORRIBLY arousing about watching clever Loki suckle on the stumps of his fingers like a small, carnivorous beast.

 

“I suppose cannibalism WAS the last fetish left for you to saddle me with,” Thor said, as the fingers grew back.

 

0

 

The weather changed very suddenly the next day, the blizzard dying down as soon as Thor opened his eyes, having spent the night with his head resting on Loki’s shoulder.

 

“I dreamed of you in the night,” Loki said into his hair. “I don’t know how long it took. But here is your secret regardless: I don’t have the shield any more,” said Loki.

Thor banged his head upon the floor. He imagined the captain’s face upon learning that it had been lost, and squeezed his eyes shut.

 

He muttered, “Beastly thing. Why did you have to ruin my coronation? You knew how much I…”


He made himself stop talking.

 

“You will have another coronation, you stupid man,” Loki sighed. “And this time it will be even more obnoxiously grandiose, for you will have all your precious Midgardian pets in attendance as well. Father will give you the crown, and you will be a glorious king, and your reign will last forever. And I shall take myself off the nether reaches of the universe and devise some pathetic means of suicide, and that shall be the story of us.”

 

“If Father does see fit to hand me the crown,” Thor snorted, “I shall hunt you down again, and drop Mjolnir upon you again, until you have consented to attend.”

 

“I don’t have the shield,” said Loki. “But I didn’t destroy it. I gave it to a pack of frost giants when I felt you coming. Didn’t give it to them myself, obviously. Regicide does have a way of prejudicing people against you. I turned it into a handful of rubies and left them it the snow for them to find.”

 

0

 

The first time Thor had lifted Mjolnir, felt her song enter his brain, Loki had clapped.

 

Delighted, and surprised, for he knew Loki had coveted her, Thor grinned.

 

Red light dripped from Loki’s fingers and onto the warm metal, turning the song in his head into a chorus. “It is an enchantment,” Loki explained. “Every time you throw her, she will return to your hand.”

 

“I thought you envied me,” Thor said, softly.

 

“Of course I’m envious,” Loki said.

 

He had said something after, but Thor had never trusted his recollection beyond that point. Too many of his idyllic childhood memories of Loki turned out to be the product of wishful thinking once he examined them carefully enough. And when asked, Loki insisted that he had never clapped at all, and that the enchantment had been Father’s doing.

 

0

 

“I could’ve been warm by my hearth in the palace,” Thor grumbled, days later. “Warm in the palace, and instead? Three cases of genital frostbite. You will be the death of me.”

 

Loki tightened the restraints, glancing about the room as he did so. “This is the accommodation the mortals have afforded their greatest champion? And where do they keep Mr Rogers, in a barn?”

 

“They are nice rooms!” Thor protested. “Philip, son of Coul, informed me that SHIELD must abide by the laws and dictates of ‘The Budget’.”

 

“’The Budget’?”

“It is an all-powerful, mysterious force that governs the lives of mortal men. Stark is not one of its followers; he is constructing a grand castle for us to meet in, and for you to blow up.”

 

Loki positioned himself over Thor’s hips, rubbing at the square bruise that covered his chest, now turned a deep purple. He leaned down over Thor’s bare back and said into his ear, “I am very angry with you, princess.”

 

“Give us a kiss, then,” Thor murmured, cheekily. He had insisted on finding the frost giant family before departing, if only to return the child’s toy horse. Loki had sneered, in that particular way that meant ‘you are unintelligent and a waste of my valuable time, and you are lucky that I care for you as much as I do.’

 

“I made up the story about the snakes,” said Loki, running a finger down his spine. “I don’t really eat flesh. Well, obviously I can. But I don't need to. I used a complex set of illusions to appear ill.”

 

“…. Gnngh?” said Thor.

 

“I suppose I wanted to see if you’d do it,” said Loki.

 

All but the most juvenile of playground threats deserted him.

 

“I am going to tell Mother,” Thor growled. “I am going to tell FATHER. I am going to tell EVERYONE, you twisted…”

“Shh, princess,” Loki hushed him, slipping the silk cloth over his eyes. “We must behave now.”

 

Sinking down into the sheets, surrendering, had much the same feel of merciful release that he had gained from freeing his toes from their frozen boots on the mountain. They went a few rounds with the riding crop, for while Loki had much more inventive punishments at his disposal, Thor was not up to being surprised.

 

“Do you remember what I said to you before the coronation,” said cruel Loki, putting the crop to one side as he watched his brother writhe.

 

More punishment, Thor thought, and this was of the kind that was supposed to hurt. “You said I looked like a king,” he answered, choking around the word.

 

“Aye. A king,” said Loki, and in such a way that Thor almost called their play to a halt; in times gone past, Loki had always known to stop BEFORE the pain exceeded the pleasure. “And see what you look like now, Thunderer. Sweating like a pig. Panting like a dog. Trussed up like a…”

Unable to retrain himself, Thor cried back, “Yes, yes, I’m a farm animal, a domesticated pet, you’ve already said as much. Better a dog on the throne than I. You grow dull, Loki. Finish the game or unbind me.”

A smack landed across the tops of his thighs, making him jolt forward, driving his leaking cock into the sheets.

 

“Insolent,” Loki muttered, and struck him again. Kept striking him at every third or fourth syllable. “And arrogant. Yet so weak. Thor is so vain. So conceited. But it is. A pretence, is it not? Thor does not love. Himself. Thor loves the idea others have of him. But Thor does not love his own idea of himself. And because he loves himself not, he hides behind empty conceit and braggartry.”

 

“Yes, yes,” Thor hissed, clenching everything as he felt himself begin to crest.

 

The next ten blows passed in silence, but for his increasingly loud moans. When Loki spoke next, the dark sorcerer had briefly departed, and his words were thick. “A pig. And a dog. And a fool. And damn you, you STILL look like a king.”

 

His fingers arrived too late at Thor’s cock to do anything more than coax forth a few more droplets, but they stayed there for a long while afterwards, even while Loki undid the restraints one-handed, and allowed Thor to curl up against his chest.

 

“And I don’t care how much humility that bitch teaches you. You will always be my vain, greedy, cruel boy,” Loki murmured, gently thrusting against Thor’s stomach, as was his favoured method of finding release after their play.

 

Thor did not know what to say to that, and being used always loosened his tongue, so he said, “I love you.”

 

Loki shuddered in his arms, pressing so hard against him it hurt.

 

“The captain told me to thank you,” said Thor, later, as Loki smoothed salve over him. “For returning his shield.”

 

“Does the captain think that if he is nice enough to me I will stop trying to kill him?”

“He believes in politeness.”

 

“He looks like you. It would amuse me to put you side by side.”

 

“No,” Thor scolded. “He is virginal.”

“Indeed?”

“Loki.”

Chuckle.

“Will you invite me to your coronation, whenever it may be?”

”I don’t need to. You haven’t been banished. You have every right to attend.”

 

“I would like to be invited.”

“I may not be crowned at all.”

 

“Hmm. True. In that eventuality, I will invite you to MY coronation.”

“Trickster. If Father decides I am unworthy of the throne, it will go without saying that you will be unworthy as well.”

“So you would not permit me to take your place?”

”Or the place of whoever Father chooses in my stead.”

”And if I said that I will kill, roast and eat any one Father chooses in your stead, and put myself on the throne in their place?”

“Then I would stop you.”

“And then take the throne for yourself?”

“I…”

“My point, princess, is that there is no other prospective king in Asgard who can defend themselves against my wrath as you can. Therefore, wicked Loki, coveting the throne for himself, will attack the Shining Realm again and again until such time as there is no one left to stand between himself and the throne. At which point, brave Thor will have no choice but to wear the crown himself, and defend it as best he can against my onslaught. And whatever any may think of you, they will say; better valiant Thor on the throne than wicked Loki. And will your pitiful, invertebrate sense of self-worth then be appeased, at long last?”

 

“You said you never wanted the throne.”

“See the sacrifices I am willing to make for my princess.”

 

His limbs were limp, his muscles relaxed, practically melting off him. Thor began to fall asleep.

 

“…If I shut my eyes, will you be gone when I wake?” he asked.

 

“Yes.”

 

“… And what if I were to place Mjolnir on you again?”

“Then I suppose I would not be able to go.”

 

Thor lifted his arm, caught Mjolnir, and put her on Loki’s right hand, the one that wasn’t rubbing the back of his neck. She purred happily.