He’s on his way out the door when the call comes.
“I’m at the train station,” Loki says. His voice is static over the phone.
Thor holds his breath.
“Come pick me up,” the static says.
Thor unwraps the foil packaging from his pop tarts, rubbing the sleep from his eyes and scratching absently at the skin of his stomach. It’s almost eleven, sun already fully risen over the Seattle skyline and peaking through the blinds of the apartment. It’s rare for the sun to be shining here, especially in winter, but there it is, practically blinding. On the couch, Loki is still asleep, face down in the musty cushions, feet poking over the side of the arm. Truth is Loki would sleep all day if Thor let him, especially after a night of drinking.
Loki always tries to out drink Thor.
He’s never successful.
The coffee machine beeps and Thor pours himself a cup, black. He chews and drinks and watches Loki sleep, the steady rise and fall of his body. His shirt has ridden up, exposing the dimples on his lower back, the pale stretch of his skin. The elastic band of Loki’s favorite sweatpants is worn thin from years of use - it sits dangerously low on his bony hips, and Thor thinks it’s a miracle they’re even staying up.
He wonders how long Loki is going to stay this time.
Thor finishes his coffee and showers. His hair is running just below his shoulders these days, a little too long for his tastes, and he knows he needs to ask Loki to cut it for him. By the time he’s finished showering, Loki is up, perched on the top of the couch eating an apple. He still looks half asleep, hair unruly. Of Montreal plays from the stereo.
“Did I say you could touch my records,” Thor says.
“I believe this record is mine,” Loki says.
Thor laughs, comes up behind him and ruffles his hair a bit. Loki bats his hand away with a low snarl.
“You’re always so grumpy in the mornings,” Thor says.
“Some of these records are mine, you know.” Loki takes another bite of his apple. “Also your record player is dusty as hell. When is the last time you cleaned in here?”
“Whenever you did,” Thor says.
Loki rolls his eyes.
“It’s not good for the vinyl,” he says.
“I’m sure it’s fine.” Thor runs his hand through Loki’s hair again, not to ruffle it this time, just to smooth it out some. “You should take a shower and come to the gas station with me.”
Loki leans back into Thor’s touch for a moment, eyes closed. He looks comfortable, at peace, little rays of sunlight making his skin glow. He pulls away and slides down onto the couch cushions, digging around for his phone. Thor watches him.
“Have you eaten recently?” He asks.
“I have an apple,” Loki says, waving the fruit around. He keeps his eyes on his phone.
“I mean proper food.”
Loki shrugs. “Close enough to that.”
Thor leans over the couch and pokes at Loki’s ribs. Loki squirms, darting off the couch to avoid Thor’s probing fingers. Thor grins.
“You look anorexic,” he says.
“We can’t all be built like a brick shithouse,” Loki says. He smooths a hand over his flat stomach. “Give me ten minutes to shower.”
When Thor goes to work, he doesn’t know what Loki does. He never knows what Loki is up to, half the time he can hardly figure out what he’s thinking. Loki disappears for days on end, sometimes weeks, and then shows up again like a snowstorm, in your face and unavoidable. Thor gets an undeniable swell in his chest every time Loki comes back.
He works at a café in downtown. The lighting is always low, the smell of organic coffee beans strong. Every hipster in Seattle goes there to hang out. There’s a record store upstairs, and Thor can hear the sounds of Gregory and the Hawk through the vents. At any given time, the café is either packed or almost entirely empty. Today it’s empty.
“I hear Loki is back in town,” Sif says, nudging Thor by the kitchen.
“Yeah,” Thor says, smiling. “He got back last night.”
“I also heard you two drank Fandral’s keg by yourselves.”
“We put a dent in it.”
Sif shakes her head and keeps wiping down the ovens. She’s got hot chocolate all over her apron, courtesy of Thor’s clumsy hands from earlier.
“Is he staying for good, this time?” She asks.
“I think so.”
“Good,” Sif says. “Because you’re always mopey as hell every time he leaves.”
“I am not,” Thor says.
“You really are. You act like a kicked puppy. It makes me want to punch him in his pretty little face.”
“I do not act like a puppy,” Thor says.
His arms are crossed over his front and he realizes he probably looks like a petulant child but doesn’t care.
“Uh-huh,” Sif says. “So where did Loki go this time?”
“I don’t know,” Thor says. “I didn’t ask.”
He never asks, even when he really wants to know. He waits for Loki, he’ll always wait for Loki, keeping his phone close to his side until Loki calls him from the airport. Or the bus station. Or the train tracks. Thor always goes to him and takes him back to the apartment and they act like nothing has happened. He doesn’t ask where Loki goes, Loki doesn’t tell him, and Thor doesn’t tell him that it kills him, feeling like he’s always waiting for the day Loki leaves again.
“Really? Did he at least bring you back something cool?”
“Loki isn’t really the present type,” Thor says.
They both hear the creak of wood from the front door of the café opening.
“I’ll go,” Sif says. “Finish cleaning the microwaves?”
Loki comes by the café near sundown, dressed in a thick black coat and a scarf that’s wrapped carefully around his neck. His hair is windblown and his face is slightly pink from the cold. Loki with his long, long legs, stretching out in his skinny jeans.
“Brother,” he says.
He slips into a seat by the counter and taps his hands against the laminate, watching Thor and Sif with a lazy expression.
“A bit cold out there?” Thor asks.
“A bit. Coffee?”
Thor’s already making him a cup. Sif watches them for a moment before shaking her head and returning to the back. She doesn’t understand them, their relationship, any of it.
She doesn’t realize that they don’t either.
They sneak up to the record store before closing, browsing vintage vinyl’s and Thor complains about the lack of selection.
“They don’t even have the new Andrew Bird album yet,” he says.
“You’re an idiot. That’s not even being released until next year.”
“It’s not?” Thor stares down at the records. “What month is it?”
“November, Thor. It’s November.”
Loki bends down and grabs a record from the back of a box.
“Look at this,” he says. “It’s a live Múm album.”
“How did you find that?” Thor bends down and runs a hand over the record, rubbing away some of the dust. “I was in here earlier and I didn’t see it.”
“That’s because I look,” Loki says.
He leans into Thor, a bundle of wool and warmth.
“Shall I buy it for us, brother?”
Thor has always liked the way he says us.
They take the bus back to the apartment, sitting side by side with their headphones on, oblivious to the passengers around them. It’s dark out now and the air feels heavy, like snow is going to fall soon. They take the elevator up to the apartment and Thor cooks them spaghetti while Loki looks through their DVDs.
Barbarella is playing softly on the TV when Thor finishes the spaghetti.
“I’m out of cheese,” Thor says, digging through the fridge for some beer. “We’ll have to go shopping tomorrow.”
“I don’t need cheese,” Loki says.
He takes the bowl Thor offers him and Thor sits next to him on the couch. Thor eats messily, always has, wrapping as much spaghetti around his fork as he can before shoveling it into his mouth. He’s finished with his food by the time Loki is halfway through. Loki watches him from the side.
“No one can inhale food quite like you can,” he says.
“I eat quickly is all,” Thor says. “I don’t take little bird bites like you.”
“I was paying you a compliment.”
“Have you missed my eating habits, Loki?”
“Oh yes,” he says.
He grins at Thor and takes a slow bite of his food, licking butter from his lips. Thor focuses on the TV and considers slapping the bowl out of Loki’s hand. He can be a little shit too.
“I missed you,” he says instead.
Thor keeps watching the TV, suddenly terrified to look at Loki.
“Did you now,” Loki says after a minute.
“Yes,” Thor says.
“I was only gone a week.”
“A week and a half,” Thor says.
He finally looks at Loki. Loki is wearing the same expression he always does, the one that reveals almost nothing, but Thor knows better. He can see it in Loki’s eyes, the way his voice has gone softer.
“Thor,” he says.
He says nothing else. Thor looks back to the television, fighting the urge to just pull Loki to him. He doesn’t have to fight long - Loki is closer to him suddenly, bowl forgotten on the floor. Thor breathes out his mouth, relieved. Loki leans into him, brushing his lips over Thor’s ear, his jaw, just light enough to make Thor shiver. This is just how it is, sometimes. Thor can’t remember exactly when it started.
That’s a lie. He can. It was the night before Loki left the first time, back when they were both younger and still lived with their father. Loki had been upset, eyes swollen with tears and Thor couldn’t think of any other way to comfort him. He kissed him, a brotherly kiss at first, even though they’d both known for some time they weren’t related by blood. But then the kiss changed into something else entirely. His hands felt too heavy and he wasn’t sure where to put them, and he remembers Loki had been shameless underneath him, shaking lightly the entire time.
Loki was gone the next day. He didn’t come back for two months.
Thor finally grabs Loki by the jaw and kisses him properly, sighing into it. Loki tastes familiar, spicy, like something exotic and also a bit like spaghetti. He pushes and maneuvers until they’re laying the length of the couch, Loki stretching his body out underneath Thor’s. Loki looks up at him and his eyes are anything but innocent. Thor groans and kisses him again, pushing down so their crotches are rubbing together, a heavy denim friction between them.
Loki is lethal in bed. He pulls at Thor’s hair until it’s nearly painful and bites his frustrations out over the skin of Thor’s neck. Thor tries to be gentle with him, but Loki likes to move fast and get to the point, always tugging and pulling to get Thor where he wants him.
“Right there,” Loki says.
His hair is everywhere, a black halo around his head. He gets a hand between them to undo his jeans and Thor pulls them down over his hips until they tangle at his knees. Loki whines when Thor palms his erection, still covered by his briefs. He moves his head down to mouth at Loki through his briefs, maybe suck him off, but Loki tugs at his hair again.
“No, no,” he says, sounding a little desperate. “Like this.”
So they keep rutting, still half dressed.
The best part is that Loki loses himself during sex sometimes, completely goes into overdrive and can’t seem to control any part of himself. Thor loves it. He gets high off of it. Right now, Loki’s taking huge breaths as Thor grinds down against him, eyes blown wide. He looks like he’s forgotten how to do anything else but this.
“Yeah,” Thor says, breathless. “Take what you need.”
Loki says, “Shit,” and then comes, moaning loud enough that Thor thinks the neighbors probably heard. Thor gets a hand in his pants and jerks himself the rest of the way, comes all over Loki’s shirt. Loki punches his arm.
“Sorry,” Thor says, not meaning it.
“That was vintage,” Loki says.
He tugs the shirt over his head and wads it into a ball, scrunching his nose at it like he’s disgusted. He looks like an angry kitten and Thor just can’t help it, he laughs. It takes a minute, but Loki laughs too, silently as always, shoulders shaking. He throws the shirt at Thor.
“You’re washing it,” he says.
Thor pulls Loki to him and kisses his brow. Loki grunts.
“I should make you go to the laundromat right now,” he says.
“Tomorrow,” Thor says. “I promise.”
He tucks the shirt under his arms and stands, motioning for Loki to follow.
“Let’s go to bed.”
Loki follows him.
Nights when things are slow around the city, they always end up at Fandral’s. His apartment is by far the biggest, so they can all fit inside without feeling like a packet of sardines. Volstagg also sweats profusely if he’s not in a large enough space. That’s not fun for anyone. They’re all Thor’s friends, technically. Loki gets along well enough with them but he’s always near Thor whenever they go over like he’s ridiculously uncomfortable being alone around any of them.
Thor nurses his beer on the couch next to Sif and Hogun. Loki is sitting cross legged on a folding chair, pretending to listen to Fandral’s story about the last show he went to and all the girls he met there. He’s wearing one of Thor’s old sweaters, a faded knit pattern that will forever smell like avocado. Volstagg is getting them snacks from the kitchen.
“Women expect too much from us,” Fandral says. “Don’t forget that Loki.”
“I’ll try not to,” Loki says. He looks over at Thor and rolls his eyes. Thor grins around his beer.
“Stop giving him crap advice,” Volstagg says. He tosses everyone some chips. “I’m sure Thor has taught him everything he knows.”
Thor chokes on his beer and gives Loki a look in warning, but Loki simply smirks at him. He winks, barely, but it’s enough to make Thor blush. Luckily, he says nothing.
“Stop being shits,” Sif says. “He just got back in town, give him a break.”
“That’s right,” Fandral says. “Where did you get off to, this time?”
“Toronto has the best music scene,” Volstagg says. “Crystal Castles formed -”
“We know that,” Fandral says, waving a hand at Volstagg to shut him up. Volstagg shoves a handful of chips into his mouth. Fandral focuses back on Loki. “What do you do, exactly, when you travel?”
“Whatever I please,” Loki says.
Thor doesn’t like the way the conversation is going. He doesn’t want to know where Loki has been. Putting a name to the place makes it too real. When Loki is gone, he’s gone. When he’s home, they don’t talk about it. It’s an unsaid rule. But Fandral is smirking.
“So how are the women in Toronto?”
“Go ask them.”
Thor watches Loki carefully, now curious. He’s trying to gauge whether or not his brother has actually gone and slept with anyone else. And he’d be allowed to, technically. They’re not together, he and Loki. What they’re doing together, it isn’t real.
“Come on,” Fandral says. He nudges Loki with his shoulder. “All that time travelling and you haven’t sampled the women out there? They wait for no man, you know. Even Thor had some action while you were away.”
Loki looks up at Thor, his expression is unreadable, but Thor knows exactly what he’s thinking. He cringes at Fandral’s words. Action. It’s a gross overstatement.
“I didn’t have any action,” he says. “We hung out-”
“They went on, how many dates? Four?” Fandral points at Thor with his beer. “Jane was a hot little number. Smart, too. She’s a rocket scientist, right?”
“We’re just friends,” Thor says. He’s speaking to Loki, he doesn’t care what anyone else thinks. He wants Loki to know.
Jane had been sweet, easy to be with. She could talk for hours about things Thor didn’t quite understand, a pleasant distraction. It took Thor until the fourth date to realize it, the nagging voice in the back of his mind. The reminder that she wasn’t him. That he was only waiting.
He broke it off. She seemed to understand why.
“Oh come on,” Fandral says. “We’re all men here. Well, and Sif. You had a girl, I’m sure Loki has had some as well.”
“Of course I have,” Loki says. His voice is calm, but every other part of him is pulled tight, like a string ready to snap. He’s looking directly at Thor, and his expression is devoid of anything kind.
Thor drains his beer. Loki’s probably lying, doing it just to goad Thor but it doesn’t matter because it’s working. Loki knows Thor well enough to know that he follows his heart first and his brain second, sometimes third. He fucking knows.
The room is staler now.
“See,” Volstagg says, speaking loud against the sudden silence. “He doesn’t need your advice.”
The rest of the night is a bundle of tension, sideways glances between Thor and Loki that say much more than they should. Loki’s lips are half upturned into a smirk, and all Thor can do is scowl and mope and drink more and more. Thor’s friends don’t know about he and Loki. No one does. Thor can’t ever possibly imagine even trying to explain it. He doesn’t understand it himself. It just is.
He doesn’t realize how drunk he is until Loki wraps his arms around him, trying to pull him upright. Somehow he’s slumped against the wall.
“Thor,” Loki is saying. “Thor we’re going now.”
“I’m not finished drinking.”
“Yes you are.”
Volstagg lets Thor lean on him all the way to the bus stop, but dumps him next to Loki once the bus arrives.
“Good luck with him,” he says to Loki.
Thor flips Volstagg off.
“You’re so petulant when you’re drunk,” Loki says.
“I am not.”
They’re barely inside the apartment before Thor is slamming Loki against the door, kissing him with his mouth open and hot and wet. Loki yields underneath him, grinning into the kiss - he wants this.
Thor lifts Loki up into his arms and Loki wraps his legs around Thor’s waist and squeezes. He carries him into the bedroom blindly, bumping into furniture all the way there, not even bothering to open his eyes or stop the kiss or breathe.
He likes the way Loki looks underneath him in bed, smaller, finally vulnerable. Thor likes knowing that he can cover Loki’s body with his own. Thor tugs at Loki’s jeans, struggling with the button while Loki pulls his shirt over his head.
“Let me,” he says, and bats Thor’s hand away to open the jeans himself, tugging them down his legs. He’s not wearing any underwear.
Thor kisses Loki, trailing his lips down his jaw and neck. He licks the flat planes of Loki’s chest and abs, nuzzles at the little dusting of hair there. He breathes in the scent of Loki, terrifying and wonderful. Loki is pushing his head down further, trying to get him to suck him off. Thor ignores his efforts, sitting upright so he can grab Loki’s legs and pull them apart. Loki hisses, exposed. Thor’s never seen him look more beautiful.
“In the drawer,” Thor says, and he doesn’t have to say much else before Loki is reaching into it and pulling out the lube.
He reaches for it but Loki pushes him away with one hand, sliding back down with his legs spread. He pours lube onto his fingers, messy, and pushes one finger inside of himself without warning, breath catching.
Thor stops breathing. He can’t do much else but watch Loki fuck himself on his own finger, keeping eye contact with Thor the entire time.
“Shh,” Loki says. “Just enjoy it.”
He slips another finger in, slow, wet, eyes fluttering closed. His legs are trembling and Thor grips his thighs tightly to control himself. When Loki goes loose enough for a third, he opens his eyes back up to look at Thor.
“Enough,” Thor says, and pulls Loki’s wrist.
Loki sighs at the loss, but doesn’t have much time after that before Thor is fucking into him, pushing Loki’s legs up higher so they rest over Thor’s shoulders. He doesn’t go easy, and he doesn’t mean to. Thor fucks Loki like he has something to prove, pushes angry bruises into Loki’s hips, swallows Loki’s cries with his tongue.
They tear at each other, trying to speak without words. Thor comes inside Loki with eyes shut tight, teeth clenched. He squeezes Loki’s shoulders as he comes, murmuring some nonsense into his hair he doesn’t even understand. The smell of beer is everywhere. He’s suddenly afraid that they’re not going to make it. They’re not going to be all right. Not ever.
The last thing Thor remembers before he passes out is Loki’s hand on his cheek.
“Hogun has tickets to see Arcade Fire."
Loki looks up from the falafel mix he’s holding.
“Are you saying this because he has tickets for us, too?”
“No,” Thor says, frowning. “But he may not go. So, you want to?”
“Sure,” Loki says.
Thor grabs the box of falafel mix from Loki’s hand. “What is this?”
“Quiet, cow. Falafel...” Thor rolls the syllables around on his tongue. “Is it good?”
“Of course it is,” Loki says, so Thor drops it into their cart.
The cart is half full, mostly with the apples and grapes that Loki is fond of, some waffle mix and of course, beer. They’ve been shuffling around the supermarket for the past hour, sluggish and awkward. Thor is undeniably hung over and Loki has a slight limp in his step. They get enough food in their cart to deem it a decent shopping, and head to the bus stop with their groceries.
The city is freezing. Snow has started falling when they get to the bus stop, and they huddle on the bench together, wrapped in their wool coats.
“So when exactly is this concert,” Loki says.
“Next Friday.” Thor shivers into his scarf. “Will you be in town?”
“For Arcade Fire? Of course.”
Thor stares at his boots and watches the snowflakes as they flutter around them, some landing on the top of his boot before melting away.
“Even if there is no concert though...you’ll be here?”
“I should be,” Loki says, and does not look up at Thor.
One time, Loki ran off to Dublin. Thor knows this because Loki was arrested there, and their father wouldn’t pay to bail him out. He wouldn’t even answer Loki’s phone calls. So Thor took the first flight out he could find, used half of his savings to get Loki out of jail. Loki hadn’t told him why he was arrested, and Thor didn’t ask. They backpacked around the countryside of Ireland for nearly a month together before Loki just left. One morning Thor woke up in their hostel and Loki was just gone.
Thor is always trying to figure out why he runs.
“This is depressing.”
Sif looks up from her zine. They’re huddled near the ovens in the kitchen, trying to get warm. It’s another slow day.
“What’s depressing,” she says. “The café or the weather?”
“Both,” Thor says. “I haven’t seen the sun in days.”
“Well, yeah. This is Seattle.”
Sif goes back to reading her zine and Thor grunts, restless. He paces around the café for a bit, fiddling with the art on the walls and picking up leftover plates and napkins from the lunch rush. He thinks about sneaking upstairs to check out the records, but he knows Sif would murder him if someone came in and he had left her all by herself. There’s a photograph on the wall near the bar of Thor that Loki took last year. Thor hadn’t realized Loki had taken the picture until he developed the prints later.
It’s a picture of Thor napping in the afternoon sunlight, one foot dangling off the couch that he’s always been too big for. It’s a few years old, back when Thor was still going through his vegan phase. Loki had snuck it onto the wall of the café when Thor wasn’t looking. He didn’t even realize that it was there until people started asking about it, about the composition of it and who had taken it. Loki had never admitted it was him. Thor knew he wouldn’t.
The door to the café opens, and for a moment Thor thinks the wind blew it open, but it turns out to be Hogun, barely recognizable under all his layers.
“Thor,” he says. “Answer your damn phone.”
Hogun shuts the door behind him, shivering. He pulls two slips of paper from his pocket and waves them around.
“Take my tickets. I have to work tomorrow night.”
“Are you serious?”
Thor crosses the length of the room to him, giddy with excitement. He stops short just before Hogun, half afraid to grab the tickets.
“Yes,” Hogun says, sighing heavily. “But I want a shirt and an autograph.”
“Done,” Thor says, grabbing the tickets. He admires them for a moment, two perfectly rectangular pieces with the words of the band printed on them. Sif is going to be so jealous.
“Who are you taking?” Hogun asks.
“Ah,” Hogun says. “Of course.”
Thor looks at him.
“What does that mean?”
“No, nothing. It’s not surprising. You and Loki are always together.”
Of course we are, Thor wants to say. We’re brothers. But for some reason he doesn’t, just stares at Hogun until Sif comes out of the kitchen and starts punching Hogun’s arm for not giving her the tickets instead.
“You’re a terrible person,” she says. “I’m supposed to be your favorite.”
“But Thor carried me home drunk last week.”
“I did,” Thor says.
“Fuck you both,” Sif says, and stalks back to the kitchen.
Thor finds Loki in the kitchen when he gets home, heating up day old macaroni and cheese in the microwave. Thor grabs him by the hips and spins him around, shoving the tickets into his face.
“Guess what these are.”
“I’m assuming tickets to the Arcade Fire concert, since they’re right in my face,” Loki says. He doesn’t sound too annoyed though, more like excited.
“Tomorrow night,” Thor says. “You’ll be here, right?”
“Yes, yes.” Loki hisses when he pulls his bowl from the microwave, the ceramic still too hot. Thor grabs his hand to look but Loki tugs it away. “I’m fine,” he says.
Thor lets him go and backs away, setting the tickets down on the counter.
“I’m glad you’re coming with me,” he says.
“Why?” Loki grabs a fork from the drawer, spearing macaroni. “No one else wanted to go with you, brother?”
“It means you’ll still be here tomorrow,” Thor says.
It comes out a lot more pathetic and dramatic than he means it to, but it’s the truth. He keeps waking up in the middle of the night, feeling around to make sure Loki is still with him. Loki stares at him, forkful of macaroni halfway to his mouth. He looks guilty, almost, mouth turned downwards.
Thor leaves him in the kitchen to eat and sits on the couch, flipping through channels on the TV but not really intent on finding anything to watch.
Loki comes into the room a few minutes later with a pair of scissors.
“Are you going to stab me?” Thor asks.
Loki scowls at him.
“Don’t be ridiculous. You need a haircut.”
“Oh,” Thor says. He shifts on the couch and Loki shifts too. The air suddenly feels thicker. Uncomfortable. “I do need a haircut.”
Loki cuts Thor’s hair on the fire escape, elegant long fingers pulling through the tangles of blond with surprising gentleness. Loki looks at Thor’s hair like he’s studying it, brows drawn down slightly. Wisps of blond hair fly into the cold air like spider webs, disappearing against the night sky. These are the times when Loki is gentle, forgiving. Only Thor gets to see this Loki. He cuts Thor’s hair like it’s an apology.
“There,” Loki says, standing and smoothing the ends of Thor’s hair down. “You could just go to a hair dresser, you know.”
“I like it when you do it.” Thor fingers the ends of his freshly cut hair.
Loki scoffs, starts to turn away but Thor grabs his hand, rubs a thumb over his pulse line. He looks up at Loki, and Loki looks startled, unsure. Thor kisses his upturned wrist, feeling the pulse beat beneath his lips. Loki shivers, still tense, but doesn’t pull his hand away.
“You’re an idiot, sometimes,” he says.
“Only sometimes, brother?”
“Don’t undermine me when I’m complimenting you.”
Thor laughs again, this time deeper in his chest. Loki is grinning the way Thor remembers. “Do you remember that time you convinced Fandral that Belle and Sebastian were doing a secret show by the train station?”
“And he went all the way down there in the freezing rain and pulled a fit when he found out you tricked him?”
“Yes,” Loki says.
“I miss those tricks. You’ll have to pull another one, soon.”
Thor pulls himself up so he’s face to face with Loki. The cold air, or maybe something else, has made Loki’s eyes wet. They shine in the night.
“I’m sorry,” Thor says, without really knowing what he’s apologizing for.
He pulls Loki into a hug, smoothing down the back of Loki’s hair with strong hands.
“I’m not,” Loki says.
The venue is crowded, packed nearly full, but Thor still recognizes almost everyone there. They’ve all come to the cafe at one time or another. The place is a hotbox of stale cigarette smoke and vegan shoes. Thor muscles his way to the front near the stage, Loki trailing behind him, and hands Loki one of the beers he bought.
“It’s too fucking crowded in here,” Loki says.
“Sold out concert, brother. What did you expect?”
“This is what I hate about concerts. All the people.” Loki frowns into his beer. “There are a bunch of hipsters here.”
Thor laughs but doesn’t get the chance to make a comeback about how they are hipsters before the stage lights start flickering, the cue that the first band is about to come on. The crowd pulls together tighter but Thor keeps Loki in front of him, one hand on his shoulder to make sure he doesn’t lose him.
“It’ll be worth all the people,” Thor says. “Trust me.”
And it is worth it. The first two bands are good, Thor and Loki have some of their albums, but everything really heats up when Arcade Fire finally comes out, instruments gleaming under the stage lights. The crowd turns into almost one being, moving together with the music, jumping and screaming. Loki loosens up some, a smile at his lips, one hand over Thor’s wrist to steady himself when things are moving too fast.
The concert ends late, but Thor still drags Loki over to the bar with him for one last drink.
“Amazing,” Thor says, putting his money down on the bar. “That was fucking amazing.”
“Yeah,” Loki says.
They’re both sweaty and smelly, but happy. They drink at the bar as the crowd dies down a bit, sharing a pleasant silence. Then everything goes to shit.
He recognizes the voice too late. It’s Jane. He’s suddenly too terrified to look over at Loki, but he already knows what his expression must be like. The air suddenly feels icy. Jane hugs Thor, and it’s nothing but friendly, but Thor still tenses against it.
“How are you,” she says. “I didn’t know you got tickets!”
“My friend couldn’t come,” Thor says. “So he gave me his.”
“Awesome. Oh my god this concert was fucking amazing, wasn’t it? Win is just an amazing vocalist. Are you here alone?”
“No, I’m here with my brother, Loki.”
Jane has never met Loki before. Thor only met her after Loki left, and he was hoping to avoid this for as long as possible. Forever, even.
“Oh, hello. It’s nice to meet you. Thor told me so much about you.”
She reaches over to shake Loki’s hand. Loki returns the gesture, smiling, but Thor knows it’s not a kind smile. Not at all.
“So what are you guys up to, now?” she asks. “I think some people were talking about a party, if you’re interested.”
“Um,” Thor says. “No. Actually, no. We were just leaving.”
“Oh.” Jane looks between them for a moment, as if sensing the tension. “Okay, that’s fine. I’ll see you around?”
“Oh, I’m sure,” Loki says.
As soon as she walks away, Loki is out of Thor’s sight, trying to disappear into the crowd as they leave the venue. Thor follows behind, close but not too close. He knows Loki won’t leave without going back to the apartment first, but if Thor can help it he’s going to stop him from leaving at all.
They get into the apartment and Loki is nothing but malicious energy. He moves with calm, calculated steps, almost hesitantly, as if he’s not quite sure what he wants to do yet.
“We’re nothing more than friends,” Thor says. “Loki, don’t be upset.”
“Upset?” Loki finally stops pacing. “I’m not upset. But don’t lie to me, Thor.”
“I am not. We had a few dates, we kissed once. That’s all.”
“I’m not asking you to defend yourself to me.”
Loki is shorter than Thor, but he’s towering over him now, eyes gone red with anger, with tears.
“You’re not bound to me,” Loki says. “You can do what you want with whomever you please. I do.”
“So is that what you do when you travel?” Thor steps forward into Loki’s space, nearly boxing him against the wall. “You go off and fuck anyone who is willing?”
Loki steps to the side, darting away from Thor.
“It’s none of your concern what I do,” he says.
“Loki, you’re my brother, I -”
“Stop! Stop calling me that, I’m not your brother, not really. You can’t call me your brother after everything we’ve done.”
“So what would you call us, then?”
He reaches out for Loki for arms stretched, but Loki pushes him away again. If Thor could get a hold of him now, he might never let him go, and Loki doesn’t want to let that happen.
“You are nothing to me,” he says. “I don’t need you.”
It’s a lie. It’s a lie and Thor tells himself that again and again, but it doesn’t stop the sting of it, the way it pinches at his heart.
“Yes, you do,” Thor says. “I don’t believe you. I don’t believe you ever went off with anyone from Toronto, or wherever else you’ve been.”
“But I have,” Loki says, and here his voice drops until it’s almost sultry. “I met a man on the train who wanted to fuck me.”
“Loki-” Thor’s voice is a warning, but Loki ignores it.
“And I let him,” Loki says. “I let him fuck me.”
Loki opens his mouth to speak but Thor doesn’t let him. He grabs Loki by the shoulders and nearly shakes him, nearly screams and punches and kicks him. Instead he pushes him towards the bedroom. Loki fights him all the way, a snarling mess, angry tears all down his cheeks.
“You always try to make things more difficult than they are,” Thor says. He says it quiet, like a confession.
“No, that’s you,” Loki spits. “It’s always been you, Thor. You’ve always been the one to fuck things up and I’ve been right behind you to take the fall.”
All at once, Thor stops. He lets go of Loki, hands gone limp. Loki is still holding onto him tight, but he slowly lets go, confused, like he doesn’t understand how they’re supposed to do this any other way. It fucking breaks Thor’s heart.
“Do you want to hurt me?”
Loki says nothing.
“Do you? Is that what you need, Loki? Then hurt me. Go on.”
“Stop,” Loki says.
“I’m here for you in whatever way you need me,” Thor says. “So if you need to hurt me, then just do it.”
“Shut up!” Loki yells. “Shut up, Thor you...no. No. It’s not supposed to be this way.”
Loki punches him. There’s enough force behind it for Thor to stumble backwards some, cheek stinging. He’s been expecting this, he has. He presses a hand to his cheek to ease the pain, Loki watching him, shaking with anger. His fists are still clenched, veins rippling.
“No,” Loki says.
He pulls back to punch Thor again, but Thor grabs his wrist and pulls Loki to him, kisses his forehead, his brow, his nose, his lips. The salty tears from his eyelids. Thor shows love through touch, and Loki doesn’t understand it. He doesn’t understand the touch, he doesn’t understand the love. Any of it.
“Stop,” Loki says. He doesn’t struggle, but he’s tense in Thor’s grip and that’s just as bad.
Thor shakes his head and brings his lips to Loki’s own. He tries to pour words into the kiss, things that he wants to say but can’t articulate. His nips at Loki’s lower lip, licks over his teeth. Loki is still tense underneath him, but he’s shaking now, like he can’t quite decide what to do. Thor leads them to the bed.
He undresses Loki slowly, with his brother limp beneath him, watching the ceiling instead of looking into his eyes. Thor presses a kiss to his exposed collar bone and Loki swallows heavily.
“I don’t ever want to hurt you,” Thor says.
“We always hurt each other,” Loki says, finally looking at him. “That’s what we do.”
“Doesn’t have to be that way,” Thor mumbles, pulling at his own clothes.
Loki looks fucking beautiful underneath him, all lethal muscle and pale skin. Thor runs a hand up Loki’s thigh until he reaches his cock, fisting it slowly. Loki inhales sharply but doesn’t stop it.
“Yes, it does.”
Thor thumbs the head of his cock, feeling the pre-come against his skin. He shakes his head.
“I can show you it doesn’t.” Maybe he’s lying. At this point he doesn’t care.
He presses his index finger against Loki’s entrance, not intending to push in, but just wanting to feel him there, the hot furl of skin. Loki is tense underneath him still, digging his heels into the mattress. Thor frowns.
“You don’t believe me,” he says.
Thor pulls his finger away, stares down at Loki. Loki with all his quiet anger. The way Loki understands it, love is supposed to hurt, and if doesn’t then you’re not doing right.
“What are you waiting for,” Loki says, nearly squirming under Thor’s gaze. “Fuck me.”
“I love you,” Thor says.
And Loki really does tense, looking suddenly frightened, absolutely terrified. It only lasts a moment before he looks furious once more and starts to scramble away, closing his legs. Thor grabs his thighs, presses his weight against Loki to keep him in place.
“Loki,” he says. “Loki.”
Loki keeps struggling, even though he knows he’s not getting out of Thor’s hold. He struggles until he’s too tired to do it anymore, until he can do nothing but lay in Thor’s arms, exhausted. He looks like he could cry again. Out of frustration, out of the feeling of helplessness that grips them both.
“What do you want me to do? What do you want?”
“Nothing. You don’t have to do anything,” Thor says. “You don’t owe me anything, Loki.”
“Fuck you,” Loki says, eyes gone wide. “Fuck you.”
He gets his arms free and kisses Thor, lips mashed together hard enough to bruise, the way it should be. He claws at Thor’s skin like it’s an extra layer of clothing, spreading his legs so that Thor is between them.
It’s a scramble for the lube but Thor finds it first, pushing two fingers into Loki at once, slick and warm and demanding. He takes his time to loosen Loki up, face buried in the crook of Loki’s neck, nuzzling the skin there. Loki whines, a vibration, and shoves himself down further onto Thor’s fingers.
“It’s enough,” he says. “I’m ready.”
It’s a lie and Thor knows it, but Loki always gets what he wants so Thor pulls his fingers free and pours more lube onto himself. He tries to push in slow even though his body is screaming at him to go fast, to push into that tight heat and never leave. Loki’s body opens up beautifully for him. Thor’s halfway in when Loki rolls them so he’s on top, forcing himself down onto Thor’s cock, hands pressed against his chest for leverage. Thor’s breath catches in his throat and chokes.
“Move,” Loki says. “Thor, please.”
Loki doesn’t say please often in bed, or ever. Thor fucks up into him with a slow roll of his hips, still trying to be gentle while giving Loki what he wants. He’s got a tight grip on his brother’s hips, thumbs rubbing circles against the bone there. Loki is moving like they don’t have time to waste, trying to speed things up, rubbing red marks all over Thor’s chest with his long fingers.
Thor tightens his grip on Loki’s hips, tries to slow him down.
“Loki,” he breathes. “Brother, slow down.”
“What’s the matter,” Loki says. His voice is a whispered laugh. “Too much for you?”
Thor takes it as a challenge. He rolls them easy so Loki’s back underneath him and plants his hands on either side of Loki’s head, cages him in and kisses him. The movement nearly bends Loki in half, but the angle must be perfect, because Thor swallows a sob from his brother’s lips. Loki’s back arches and the sweat-slick movement of skin makes Thor groan.
He picks up his pace, starting to lose his control, especially with Loki underneath him like this, almost completely wrecked.
“Too much for you?” Thor echoes.
Loki just laughs, and it’s reassuring. It reminds Thor of how it used to be, how it should be. Loki’s body shivers. It’s light, but Thor knows him well enough - it means he’s close.
“Not yet,” he says, squeezing the head of Loki’s cock.
Loki chokes. “Thor, no. No.”
“Hold out for me. I know you can.”
He picks up his thrusts until the pace is almost brutal. Loki is slack jawed, mouth hanging open, unable to stop himself from moaning. Thor wants to kiss him but he doesn’t want to stop hearing those sounds, not ever. He strokes the pulse of Loki’s neck, snaps his hips so that their flesh slaps together.
“I lied,” Loki says it like it’s punched out of him, shaking and sweating underneath Thor. “It’s only you. It’s only ever been you.”
Thor nearly loses his rhythm. It’s a confession he’ll only get to hear once, so he lets it ring in his ears and echo through his mind for a bit. It’s only ever been him.
And all that time Loki was trying to prove to himself that he didn’t love Thor. That he didn’t need him. There was never anyone else, and Thor thinks he’s known that all along.
Thor comes. He shoves forward, burying himself as deep as he can, face hidden into Loki’s neck. He bites the tender skin there and brings Loki off with his hand, still thrusting shallowly, hair tangled against the pillow with Loki’s. They stay together like that, still life figures in the bed, breath mingled together.
Eventually, Loki rolls them again so he can shower. Thor doesn’t follow, he knows when to let Loki be on his own, but he listens to the sound of the water running, the quiet sigh his brother makes as he soaps himself clean.
When Loki comes back to bed he’s warm from the water. He lets Thor pull him close, one arm draped loosely over his waist. They don’t talk. They don’t have to. It’s out now, and Thor and Loki both know that they don’t have to bring it up again. Neither of them are very good with words. Not when it counts.
They fall asleep to the dull sound of traffic.
Sif is drunk. They’re on the rooftop of her apartment even though it’s below freezing outside, but the stars are beautiful tonight.
“And I said, I said to her ‘Kathleen Hanna is riot grrrl, you fucking moron. Courtney Love only wished she was part of it. Bikini Kill is legendary.’ She’s lucky I didn’t punch her.”
Volstagg grabs her hand because she’s wobbling too close to the edge of the building, drags her closer to the group. They’ve got a fire pit going, huddled close underneath their blankets, sitting on rickety folding chairs. Thor strokes Loki’s palm under the cover of the blanket.
“She’s very lucky,” Volstagg says. “Come back to the fire, Sif.”
“Riot grrrl is not dead.”
“No it is not,” Volstagg says. He convinces her to sit with him by the fire and tries to feed her some pita chips.
“You should read Bell Hooks,” Loki says to Sif. It’s the first he’s spoken all night. Fandral and Hogun grunt in agreement.
The morning after the concert, Thor woke up and Loki wasn’t next to him. He panicked instantly, tearing out of the bedroom only to find Loki perched on the fire escape, enjoying the crisp morning air. Loki stared at him, concerned, but Thor didn’t want to bring any more attention to it. Instead he took Loki to the café for waffles and hot chocolate. The conversation seemed light, easy. Loki even let Thor put an arm around him on the way to the bus stop, when all Thor really wanted to was scream at him, beg for him not to leave again.
“Loki is a feminist,” Thor says. “He bought a Cindy Sherman film still, you know.”
“Can you buy those?” Fandral asks.
Loki grins. “It’s possible I borrowed it.”
Everyone laughs, doesn’t press the issue further. Sif passes out against Volstagg’s shoulder, half a beer still clutched in her hand.
They stay outside until their bodies start going numb and the fire dies down to nearly nothing.
“We should go dancing,” Fandral says.
“No,” Hogun says. “I do not dance.”
Volstagg nods his head at Sif. “I don’t think she’s going anywhere else for the night.”
“Fine,” Fandral says. “More beer, then? My place?”
Loki looks over a Thor with an amused expression, one that says he’s not going to be a part of whatever shenanigans they might want to get into. Thor nods to him.
“Loki and I are probably just going to head home,” he says.
“This early? It’s only...” Fandral glances at his phone. “Shit, it’s nearly one.”
“Exactly. Goodnight, my friends.”
It’s a silent walk home, and when they get back to the apartment Thor has too many thoughts crashing around in his head to think properly. He stops in the middle of the kitchen, unable to decide what to do. Loki notices.
“Thor,” he says. He’s dressed in Thor’s shirt and those damn sweatpants again, ready for bed, but Thor can’t take it anymore.
“Are you going somewhere?”
“To bed,” Loki says. “Come on.”
“You know what I mean, Loki.”
Loki stares at him for a long moment, expressionless.
“I don’t know,” he says. “Maybe.”
“You don’t have to,” Thor says. “You could stay.”
“Promise me you won’t leave again.”
Loki makes a pained face, eyes cast downward. “I can’t promise you that.”
Thor grapples for a compromise.
“At least promise you’ll stay tonight.”
“Promises,” Loki echoes. He steps forward, grips Thor’s t-shirt between his fingers and stares at the fabric like it holds some sort of answer. He kisses Thor on the mouth, and that becomes his answer, the press of his lips against Thor’s, the slip of his tongue on his teeth.
“Come to bed,” he says, and Thor follows.
Loki keeps his promise. He stays the night. He stays for a while, actually. Thor drags him all around the city as if Loki’s never been there before, one hand resting on his lower back. They walk the fish market during the morning and check out foreign films at the independent theater. On days when Thor works, Loki sits quietly at a table, sipping herbal tea and listening to his headphones, eyes shut to the world. Loki buys Thor a book of poetry one day, Pablo Neruda, and scowls when Thor uses it as a coaster. They also have sex. Lots of sex. On the bed, the couch, the kitchen counter – Loki’s long legs draped over Thor’s shoulders and his voice a whisper in Thor’s ear, asking for more, calling him brother.
The problem is that things never stay as they should, never the way Thor wants them to. Even with Loki so close to him now, he’s knows it’s only a matter of time before he slips away again.
It starts with a call from their father. The day is already gloomy, dark clouds hanging angry over the Seattle skyline, threatening rain or snow. Thor and Loki are still tangled under the sheets together. The sound of the phone is loud, and when Thor glances at the caller ID he knows that Loki has seen who it is. It feels like awful timing in an otherwise perfect moment. An illusion shattered by the shrill ring of the phone.
“Pick it up,” Loki says, voice colder.
Thor does, right before the last ring.
It’s not a bad call, just Odin wondering how he’s been, what he’s been up to. Thor doesn’t tell him that Loki is back and Odin doesn’t ask. When he hangs up Loki is sitting upright in bed, arms crossed over his chest. Thor opens his mouth to say something but Loki silences him.
“You could call him, Loki.”
Loki shakes his head.
“It’s too late for that.”
He slips from the bed and pulls his clothes on, solemn faced. Thor’s seen that face before. Loki never stays still when he’s upset – he paces sometimes for hours, footprints etched into the carpets. He disappears into the front room and Thor sighs against the bed sheets, feeling the warmth of where Loki had lay, now cold.
The next week, at the café, there is a poetry reading. This is where everything changes.
It’s an open mic sort of thing, anyone can read, so most of the poetry is a load of shit, but there are few gems in the crowd that really stand out. Thor’s never really understood poetry, but Loki adores it so he takes him. They sit together near the window, and Fandral, Hogun, and Volstagg join them because they follow Thor fucking everywhere. Loki once called them his fanboys. They’re polite most of the reading, though Fandral does chime in a few times to poke fun at particularly bad poems.
“So trite,” he says. “No talent whatsoever.”
And Loki just shrugs and says nothing.
It’s near the end of the night when some hipster girl takes the stage, in dark rimmed glasses and argyle tights, her voice a soft lull. Fandral immediately hits Thor’s shoulder, eyebrows raised.
“What,” Thor says.
“She’s been watching you all night.”
Thor hadn’t noticed. She’s watching him now as well, even when she starts reading her poetry out, her gaze is on Thor.
“You should say hello to her after,” Fandral says. “I could introduce you, put a good word in.”
Next to Thor, Loki is watching her as well. His expression speaks amusement, by the way he watches her, it’s like he wants to burn her with his eyes. The white knuckled grip he has on his wine glass confirms Thor’s suspicions.
“She’s really not my type,” Thor says.
“What? What do you mean?” Fandral looks up at her, back at Thor. “She’s cute, she’s a girl. That’s all the type you need.”
“Fandral,” Thor starts, but Fandral cuts him off with a leer, leaning into Thor’s personal space.
“Unless girls aren’t your type anymore,” he says.
Thor doesn’t get a chance to say anything, or punch him, because Loki’s wine glass shatters at the stem under his grip and then his hand is bleeding, wine and blood dripping onto the table top. Thor shoves the broken glass out of the way and presses a napkin to Loki’s hand to try and slow the bleeding. He turns and glares at Fandral.
“There’s a first aid kit behind the bar,” he says. “Fetch it, now.”
Fandral does as he’s told, a little terrified at Thor’s tone. Hogun and Volstagg hand Thor more napkins in an attempt to help.
“Are you alright?” Thor asks.
Loki nods, staring down at his hand. The bloodied napkins on the tabletop are a bright red. Thor strokes Loki’s palm with his thumb, a reassuring gesture.
“It’s okay,” he says, low enough so only Loki can hear.
Fandral comes back with the first aid kit and they pour antiseptic over Loki’s hand and bandage it with gauze. The cuts aren’t that deep, and his hand stops bleeding before the girl on stage finishes her poems.
They walk home, Loki just far enough ahead of Thor so that he can’t reach out to touch him. All Thor can do is stare at Loki’s bandaged hand and think that it's his fault, even know he knows it isn’t. But he can read Loki’s body language, the way his back is pulled straight, arms tucked at his sides. He knows Loki is going to leave again. In the morning, he might be gone, disappeared again in the night on the first flight to anywhere. As much as Thor doesn’t want it to happen, he’s not sure he can do anything to stop it.
When they get inside, Thor kisses Loki, one hand cradling his skull. A plea.
He pulls away and Loki is staring at him, as though Thor in this moment, Thor out of everyone, has broken his heart.
“I’m going to change the gauze,” Loki says, and disappears into the bedroom.
Thor is afraid to follow him in. He’s afraid to see the look on Loki’s face, the determination to run again. Thor goes into the kitchen and opens the refrigerator, closes it. He turns the television on and flips through channels of white noise before turning it off. He collects old cups from the coffee table and drops them into the sink.
Loki hasn’t come out of the bedroom yet.
Thor finally makes himself go in, even though his feet feel heavy and don’t want to move. He opens the door and is surprised to see Loki just standing there in the middle of the room, still as stone. For a moment, they just watch each other. Then Thor speaks.
“You’re going to leave again.”
“Yes,” Loki says.
The word makes Thor angry and sad at the same time. There isn’t much he feels he can say. He can hold Loki, make him stay, but only for so long. Loki takes two steps and then he’s in front of Thor, a snowstorm. Unavoidable.
“I was thinking,” he says. He pauses to lick his lips. He looks almost unsure. “You should come with me.”
It feels like hours before Thor gets his mouth working again.
“What,” he says.
“Come with me,” Loki says. “We could leave tonight.”
We. Thor swallows.
“Where, though? Loki I can’t just...” Thor trails off and realizes that he’s actually considering it and it doesn’t surprise him at all. “Where would we go?”
“Anywhere,” Loki says. He sounds more confident now, excited about it. “You pick.”
He strokes the stubble of Thor’s cheek with tender hands.
“We’ll come back eventually,” he says. “But we could leave for right now, just you and me. It could be our world, Thor.”
A few years ago, maybe even a month ago, Thor would have taken the time to think about it, about their father and their friends, about what they would think. He has a job, here. A life. Friends. But without Loki he doesn’t want it. He doesn’t want any of it without his brother.
“All right,” Thor says. “All right. Let’s go.”
He feels giddy, he hasn’t felt this way in years, like any worries he’s ever had about anything ever are gone. He feels fucking free.
“You’ll come with me,” Loki says, only half a question.
Thor kisses him, tangles his hands in Loki’s own.
“Of course I will.”
Loki smiles against his lips, and Thor knows that they’re going to make it.
They’re going to be all right.