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How it happens is that Thor wakes up it's like his chest is on fire and his bones are aching like they're going to crumble apart. It wakes him up with this terrible feeling attached to it, like something is happening that he can't control.

What it is, exactly, Thor isn't sure of, but he knows it's nothing good. It's not something physical, not something he can see. But he can feel it. Something right in front of him that he can't see, an itch in his heart. He feels cold.

Thor remembers it starting a month ago, maybe a little longer than that. No one else says anything about it. Nothing else seems to have changed.

But then again, everything has.

-

Loki barely eats a thing. Thor watches him as he frowns into his breakfast, almost as if he’s in a trance. Loki may be thin, but Thor used to joke that he had the appetite of a giant, eating at least two plates and still ready for more. He’s been this way for weeks now, though, dark circles under his eyes. His skin seems paler.

"Something troubles you," Thor says.

There's a short, fleeting moment where Loki looks shocked that anyone has noticed, but he covers it quickly.

"Nothing troubles me, brother."

"You haven't eaten a thing."

Loki picks an apple from his plate and waves it at Thor before taking a bite.

"Now I've eaten something," Loki says.

Thor frowns. "But it's not just that. You seem tired as of late. You're distracted when we spar."

"Perhaps I have other things on my mind besides ridiculous training," Loki says. He raises his eyebrows at Thor, grin sharp.

"There's nothing ridiculous about training." Thor grabs another hunk of bread off the table. "You should try it more often, then you can get stronger like me, and maybe father will allow you on our hunting trips once you turn eighteen."

"Oh, there's an incentive," Loki says dryly. "A chance to kill dumb beasts with you and father in the mountains of Asgard."

"It's good sport," Thor says. He sits up straighter in his chair, defensive. "All the men do it."

It's easy for Loki to rile Thor up, and he forgets, for a moment, what his real purpose for the conversation is.

"But truly, Loki. What's wrong? You look ill. Do you need a healer?"

"I'm fine," Loki says. "Your eyes deceive you, Thor."

Thor opens his mouth again to point out how untrue that really is, but Odin comes bursting into the dining hall, demanding to know which one of them stole the last of the pheasants from the kitchens (it was both of them, but they blame Volstagg).

-

The feeling comes again that night. It wakes Thor up and makes him uneasy, ready to jump out of his skin. And tonight, tonight it seems worse. Colder. Almost to the point of freezing. Thor breathes out heavily, almost expecting to see his breath, but there’s nothing except the low burn of torchlight.

It's then that he realizes it.

There's someone next to him. He’s been so distracted he almost didn't notice, but he can feel them next to him, the soft dip of their weight on the mattress. Thor rolls over and jumps upright, fist raised to strike, but he stops short when he sees who it is.

"Loki?" Thor drops his fist, head cocked to the side. "What are you doing?"

"I..." For the first time in a long time, Loki is at a loss for words.

When he doesn't say anything right away, Thor grins wicked.

"Were you trying to play a trick on me, brother?" And then Thor reaches out to grab Loki's wrist and Loki tries to pull it away. They end up wrestling for a minute, Loki kicking his limbs wildly until Thor pins him underneath his weight. With both hands finally holding onto Loki's wrists, Thor stops smiling.

"Loki," he says. "You're freezing. What has happened?"

Loki snarls. "Let me go."

Thor doesn't listen. He touches the exposed skin of Loki's collarbone where his tunic stretched open during their fight. Then he touches Loki's cheek.

"You're cold all over," Thor says. "You are sick."

"I'm not," Loki insists. "You ass, let me go."

Loki struggles in Thor's grip, shoving and hitting, but Thor can be a stubborn ox when he wants to be.

"Then why have you come here, hm?" Thor asks.

"I couldn't sleep," Loki says.

Thor knows it's not the truth, but he also knows that Loki won't say anything about it if he doesn't want to. Thor rolls off of Loki, taking his place on the other side of the bed. Loki stays still beside him like he's waiting for Thor to kick him out.

"You may stay here tonight," Thor says.

He can feel Loki relax next to him, shuffling a bit to get underneath the bed clothes and try and warm himself up. Thor listens to the unsteady rise and fall of his chest and his throat tightens. Something is wrong, something is really, really wrong.

"What's happening to you?" Thor asks.

Loki doesn't answer, seemingly asleep, but Thor knows he's only pretending.

-

They don't talk about it. The thing with Loki is he doesn't like to talk about things, not ever, so Thor is never quite sure what's going on with him. It worries Thor even more.

Loki is gone when Thor wakes up and it's like he was never there. His chambers are empty when Thor knocks on them, but he finds Loki out by the gardens in the sunshine, reading a book of spells. He looks far better than he did last night, some color has crept back into his cheeks. Thor wonders how long it's been since he got a proper night's sleep.

"Brother, there you are."

Loki waves a hand at Thor to acknowledge his presence, but says nothing. Thor waits a moment, watching as Loki turns the page of the book, engrossed in whatever he's learning about. There's a half eaten apple next to him, slightly browned. Everything around him is golden, but Loki looks dark, out of place.

Eventually, Thor realizes that Loki does not intend to speak to him.

"Are you alright, then?" he asks.

"Yes, Thor," Loki says, voice bored. "It was nothing."

"You were freezing."

Loki sets his book down.

"It was nothing," he says again. "Leave me be, brother, I'm trying to read."

Thor scoffs and stalks off the find the Warriors Three, muttering under his breath about his stupid, prissy little brother who can't sleep alone. He stalks off and curses Loki and so he doesn’t see the way Loki watches after him.

-

He takes Fandral down with three strikes.

"Whoa, Thor, take it easy! We're only sparring, remember?" Fandral picks himself up off the ground, dusting his tunic off. "I'm not a frost giant, my friend. You needn't be so rough."

Fandral claps Thor on the shoulder, nudges him gently with this shield. It doesn't make Thor feel any better. He sheaths his sword.

"Sorry, Fandral," he says. "I did not mean that for you."

"Something is troubling the young prince?" Volstagg asks from the corner. "Or maybe Fandral is just getting weaker?"

"Oh be silent, you fat oaf." Fandral adjusts his collar. "I fail to recall the last time you even set foot on these training grounds."

"Just because you don't see-"

"You're especially irritable this afternoon," Hogun interrupts.

Thor shrugs under their gazes, shaking his head. He's hardly been able to concentrate all day because of Loki. It's not that he's angry at him, but he wants to help him and Loki is too stupid and proud to let him. And maybe he is angry with him as well. Just a bit.

"It's nothing," he says. "Really."

"Royal family troubles," Volstagg says. "Best not to get involved, I think."

"Speaking of the royal family," Fandral says, "where's young Loki?"

"Off reading, no doubt," Volstagg says.

"Aye." Thor sits on the bench next to Volstagg, wiping sweat from his brow. "You know Loki, he's not really a fighter."

"No," Fandral says. "No, he's not. Odd for a son of Odin, if you ask me."

Thor frowns.

-

He waits for Loki in the darkness that night, perched on the edge of his bed. It's a warm evening, it usually is, but Thor has extra bedding ready for when Loki comes. If Loki comes.

It takes hours, and Thor is nearly asleep by then, but the door to his chambers cracks open slowly, and he can see Loki's shadow in the hallway.

"Loki," Thor whispers.

Loki slips in the doorway and shuts it behind him. He's breathing heavily, like he's just finished training. He doesn't look at Thor. He looks just past him to the opposite wall at nothing.

"Can I stay with you, tonight?" he asks.

"Yes," Thor says. "But you have to tell me what's going on."

Loki huffs, leaning back into the door like he's considering leaving just to avoid talking about it. Eventually, he moves forward and climbs into the bed with Thor, rearranging the pillows and settling himself in.

"I don't know," he says finally. "I don't know what's happening."

Thor touches his arm. "You're freezing again. You're sure you're not sick?"

"I'm not. I'm..." Loki cuts himself off, frowning.

"You're...?"

"You'll make fun of me," Loki says.

"I will not." There's silence, and Thor can tell that Loki is considering whether or not to tell him. Thor knows he'll tell him eventually. They tell each other everything.

"They're nightmares," Loki says.

He looks paler again, like just mentioning it has caused him to fall right back into it.

"Nightmares," Thor says. He scoots down lower in his bed, face to face with Loki. "What are they about?"

There's a long silence where Thor can hear nothing but Loki’s heart beating just a little too fast.

"Ice," he says eventually. "Ice all over and I...I can't escape it."

"Like Jotunheim?"

"I don't know," Loki says. "But I can see myself in the ice and I'm part of it, it consumes me. It feels real, Thor, it feels so real."

"What does it mean?"

"I don't know!"

Loki shrinks back against the covers, looking embarrassed, the edges of his brows drawn downwards. He looks ready to cry.

"Have you told father?" Thor asks.

Loki laughs, stiff. "Of course not," he says. "Do you know what he would say to me? I'm seventeen, Thor. I'm too old for nightmares."

“But it could be something else. Something serious.”

"No," Loki says. He grips Thor's shoulder and stares at him heavily. "Promise me you won't say anything."

"Loki-"

"Promise me, Thor."

"Fine," Thor says. "I promise."

He grabs Loki's hand from his shoulder and squeezes it in his own before placing it back in Loki's lap.

"You can stay here again, tonight," Thor says. "Just keep it down. I have archery training with Sif tomorrow."

He waits for some sort of sarcastic reply from Loki, but his brother says nothing.

-

It goes on like that for weeks. Loki waits until the everyone is in bed, and then he steps into Thor's chambers, silent as a shadow, curled against Thor's side until morning when he disappears again.

Some nights, Loki is frozen, shivering so violently that Thor is afraid he's going to vomit onto the bed. He never does, but he does let Thor cover him with the blankets and wrap and arm around him to keep him close. For some reason it relaxes Loki further, like Thor's arm can somehow protect him from everything. When they were younger, it used to be their mother and father that they would run to after bad dreams. Frigga would sing them lullabies and sometimes Odin would sneak them a sip of mead when they were being particularly restless, and they would fall asleep in a tangle of limbs at the foot of their parent's bed.

He tells Thor more about his dreams, about the dark hands grabbing him, pulling him downwards and trapping him in the cold. The problem is they can't figure out what it means.

Other nights, the more recent nights, have been different. Loki still sneaks in, but he seems less afraid. He's warmer on these nights, and it makes Thor wonder if Loki has had a nightmare at all, or if he just prefers Thor's company. The thought makes his stomach flutter, and it's not an unpleasant feeling, but Thor thinks that maybe it shouldn't be there.

But there was one night, one night where the dream was so bad that Loki didn't stop shaking for hours, and Thor let him cry in his arms and felt more powerless than he had in all his life.

"There's something wrong with me," Loki whispered, and Thor held him tighter.

Even when the nightmares seem less frequent, Loki doesn't stop coming. He and Thor lay awake in his bed together sometimes, reminiscing about the days when they were younger, trying to sneak past Heimdall and use the Bifrost. They were always caught, of course, but that didn't stop them from trying.

"You were always the one getting me into trouble," Thor says. He's lying on his back with Loki half draped over top of him, look all too pleased with himself.

"I do not recall you ever giving protest," Loki says.

Thor grins. He likes this. He and Loki haven't been as close as they should be, not as of late. Thor had grown to be Loki's opposite - golden, strong, the firstborn son. Thor gained muscle and Loki stayed slim and studied magic, played tricks on people when he was feeling alone, which was often. They grew up nearly isolated, Odin's precious sons, with only each other for company, and they were closer than most siblings Thor knew. But now Thor was an adult, and he had tasted battle. They were different. Loki had changed, but so had Thor, and for a while he wasn't sure they'd ever be like they were. But now, now things seemed okay.

-

One morning Thor wakes up with a hard on.

He thinks it might be because of a dream, but he can't remember what the dream even was, all he knows is that he's hard, almost painfully so, his cock leaking against his breeches. Thor bites his lip and doesn't move. Loki is next to him, still asleep, but so fucking close to him that Thor is afraid to move and make him aware of it.

Thor slips a hand into his underwear, palming his erection. For a long time he just holds it, squeezing his eyes shut and willing it to go away. For some reason, the thought of Loki next to him doesn't make it go away any faster.

As soon as he goes soft, Thor leaps from the bed and runs into the dining halls.

He skids to a stop in front of his mother and father, both finishing up their breakfast.

"Thor," Frigga says warmly. "Why are you running around in your underthings?"

Odin smiles into his cup. "Trying to impress the chambermaids, no doubt."

"What? No, I-" Thor takes a deep, steadying breath. "I was just hungry."

"Well hurry up then, boy," Odin says. "Before Volstagg comes in to eat it all. Where is your brother?"

"How should I know?" Thor grabs ham from the plates and does not think of Loki asleep in his bed.

"No matter," his father says. "I'm glad you're up, at least. I have a surprise for you."

-

He avoids Loki all day. He spars with Sif, drinks mead with Hogun and harasses the chambermaids with Fandral. When Thor thinks he sees the shadow of Loki's thin form he darts the other way, busying himself in the weapon's room or feeding the horses. It isn't until that night that Loki finds him, and Thor knows he's coming. He sits up in bed and waits for him, feeling stupid for no reason.

"You're angry with me."

Thor jumps. Loki is beside him, suddenly, probably having used magic and Thor still quite can't get used to it. It's the one thing that Loki will always have over him.

"Loki, you - I didn't need a heart attack, brother."

"My apologies," Loki says, not sounding sorry at all. He stands at the edge of Thor's bed, looking uncertain.

Thor nods to him and Loki climbs into the bed, still hesitant. Thor waits until he's settled under the covers to speak.

"Father is taking me hunting."

Thor doesn't look at Loki, but he imagines Loki is watching him.

"Oh," Loki says.

"We leave at first light tomorrow. The mountains. We'll be gone a few days."

He can't quite figure out why he's been avoiding Loki all day. It's just that he didn't want to tell him. It felt too much like he was abandoning Loki, letting him down.

"But you'll be able to come soon, too," Thor says, when Loki says nothing. "So we can go together."

"I have no desire to go hunting with father," Loki says.

"Are you angry?" Thor asks.

Loki shrugs. "No. Why would I be?"

Thor worries at the bedding under his rough fingers. "I won't be here in case...you know. I'll be gone."

One thing Loki and Thor have in common is pride. They're both proud, almost to a fault, at times, and that in turn makes them both stubborn. Only Loki would admit that they're idiots for it, but it won't stop them either way.

"I'm not a child," Loki says. "I'll be fine. Go hunting with father. It will be fine."

"What if you have a nightmare?"

"I can manage without you," Loki says.

"I know," Thor says.

Loki shifts on the bed, turning away from Thor to lie more on his side. "We can't always be together," he says.

Thor wants to tell him that's a lie, but he can't make himself open his mouth.

-

The hunt is good. They catch wild oxen, feed on two for dinner and then bring the rest home as a present for Frigga. Thor tries to trap a bird, a crow, to bring home for Loki, but it dies in the trap, and they end up feeding it to the dogs.

Even a good hunt doesn't take Thor's mind off of Loki. He worries about him almost constantly, and worries even more that he has to remind himself that it's not normal for brothers to do that.

"You're distracted," Odin comments one evening.

"I'm not," Thor says. He checks his bow, staring at the fresh sprinkling of snow on the forest floor. When he breathes out, he can see his breath clearly. "Do you think dreams can tell the future?"

His father watches him carefully, following Thor's gaze out onto the horizon where the sun is setting.

"I think dreams can tell us a great number of things, Thor," he says.

Thor nods, feeling unsatisfied. He's not sure what sort of answer he was looking for.

They return to Asgard five days later, and Loki is nowhere to be seen. His mother and father greet each other with kisses, but Thor ignores everyone in favor of searching around for Loki. He checks his chambers first, just in case, but his bed is still untouched since he left.

He finds Loki in his own room, asleep. Thor frowns. It's early evening, there's no reason for Loki to be sleeping, not unless he was sick, and Thor knows better than that. He steps toward the bed and to touch Loki's forehead and Loki disappears.

Thor curses.

"Damn it, Loki."

"I'm right here."

Thor turns, and sees Loki leaning against the door frame, a weary smile on his face. He steps forward, motioning to the bed where his double was.

"I've been practicing while you were away."

Thor watches Loki carefully. His eyes still seem swollen with lack of sleep, lips pale. He reminds Thor of winter.

"How have you been sleeping?" Thor asks.

"I'm sure you can see the answer," Loki says.

Thor hugs him, just to feel Loki against him. He's not sure if it's comforting at all to his brother, but it at least comforts him.

"Stay with me, tonight," he asks, for the first time.

Loki does.

-

He tells himself it's normal, but as the days go by, Thor realizes that he doesn't ever want to sleep without Loki in his bed.

He also wakes up most mornings with a hard on, and not the early morning kind. It terrifies him, because Loki is his brother, and he doesn't think about him that way. He doesn't. There have been a few times, sure, but Thor tell himself that's normal too. He's a man, and Loki is around all the time and has a softer mouth than most women, green eyes and a frame that's lean in all the right places.

And there's something about it that feels wrong, so wrong, and at the same time still feels okay.

-

"Sometime tied Volstagg's beard to his bedpost this morning," Thor says. "I have a strong suspicion that it was you."

Loki grins but does not look up. He stares at the flame conjured in his palm, a small green fire. He and Thor are sitting across from each other on the bed, both unable to sleep.

"Now why would I do such a thing?" Loki snaps his hand shut and the flame goes out.

"Because you're a trickster," Thor says. He grabs Loki's hand and opens it back up, touching the skin of his palm there. It's smooth and unburnt. It's not even warm. Magic has always intrigued Thor to no end, especially when it comes from Loki.

"Am I," Loki says. He curls his hand around Thor's and holds it there. "So did he have to cut it off?"

"Some," Thor says, distant. He watches their hands entwined together, the way they fit like puzzle pieces, their fingers slotted, knuckles brushing. Thor swallows, pulls his hand away.

"I'm tired now," he says. "We should sleep."

-

Odin finds them that morning.

Realistically, Thor knew it could never last, but he still hoped for it. Stupid, Loki would have told him, and Thor wouldn't have listened.

"What sort of foolishness is this?!"

Their father's voice is loud, still terrifying even now that they're adults, shaking the very foundation around them. Thor and Loki scramble, untangling themselves from one another, moving from the bed like it's on fire.

"Father," Thor tries.

"Silence!" Odin points to Loki. "To your room, boy, now."

Loki leaves with his shoulders drawn downwards, nearly sprinting once he gets to the hall. Thor swallows heavily. Technically, he hasn't done anything wrong, but he still feels like he has. Odin slams the door shut behind Loki.

"How long has this been going on for?"

"Not too long..."

"I thought Loki had run off, or worse, been kidnapped." Odin steps closer to Thor, looms over him. "And then I come here and I find you two...together. Do you know what someone might think, if they saw you like that? A son of Odin! Both sons of Odin!"

"We meant no harm," Thor says. "Loki has been..."

Thor bites his lip, stares stone faced at his father.

"Loki has been what?" Odin demands.

He takes a moment, trying to weight his options, to decide whether or not telling their father is the best idea. Odin looks ready to strike him and Thor winces, because he may twenty but Odin is still Odin.

"What is going on with Loki," Odin says, his voice louder, more demanding.

"He's not well," Thor blurts. "He's been having nightmares, terrible dreams of ice and I just-"

"What did you say?" Odin's face suddenly mirrors Thor's own. He's the one who looks terrified now, and it makes Thor even more worried.

"Dreams that he's made of ice," Thor says. "He wakes up cold. I was only comforting him, father, we meant nothing by it."

Odin goes silent and Thor can't tell if he's made it worse or not. His father seems to be contemplating something, and the lines of his face seem even more pronounced, as if he has suddenly aged a decade. Finally his face hardens again, and he looks at Thor once more.

"We will not speak of this again," Odin says. "But hear me now, Thor. You and Loki cannot sleep together in bed. You are not children, you are men."

"Yes, father."

When Odin leaves, Thor stares after him, a little stunned. He expected worse, much worse, than that. He stands beside his bed for a long time, waiting to see if Loki comes back, though he doubts that he will.

-

Loki isn't at breakfast, and when Thor checks around he realizes that Loki isn't anywhere. He can hide incredibly well when he wants to, and he won't be found until he's ready to come out.

He sleeps alone that night, and it's the worst night sleep he gets in years.

Loki doesn't show himself the next day, either, and Thor skips breakfast to look for him even though he knows it's hopeless. He yells for him in the hallways, startling the guards and punching holes into the stone walls.

Thor eats lunch alone, ready to cry from frustration. He doesn't even notice Frigga as she sits next to him, not until she strokes his hair down.

"Mother," Thor says.

"What troubles you, child?"

Thor chews slowly to avoid answering, though he's certain Frigga already knows that answer. Still she waits patiently for him to answer, combing her fingers through the tangles in his hair.

"Loki," Thor says, like it's being ripped out of him.

"He will come out of hiding eventually," his mother says.

"He's angry with me."

Frigga presses the back of her palm lightly against his Thor's cheek, wiping imaginary crumbs away.

"You're often angry with each other," she says. "And you always get over it. The curse of being brothers."

"I don't feel like a good brother," Thor says, leaning into her touch.

Frigga frowns. "Why do you say that?"

"I don't know." Thor pulls away from her touch and stands. "I'm sorry, mother. I don't mean to worry you."

"Thor," Frigga says warmly, "you and your brother will always worry me. But you'll be fine, of that I'm sure."

Thor smiles and tries to believe her. He really, really tries.

-

It's later that night when Loki shows up again. His presence is like a punch to the face, literally, because he punches Thor in his face. Thor turns around and there he is, black hair wild and eyes alight, lips pulled into a snarl. The next thing Thor sees is a fist in his face, and then his head snaps and his cups his cheek, hissing.

"You promised me," Loki spits.

"I'm sorry," Thor says. "I thought-"

"You thought nothing! That's your problem. You never think, you stupid halfwit."

Loki shoves Thor, and Thor lets him, stumbling backwards until he collides with the wall.

"I thought that he would understand," Thor says. "Loki, please."

"You promised."

Thor chews his lip. "I'm sorry," he says. "Brother, I'm sorry."

Loki doesn't say anything. He watches Thor with his arms crossed defensively. He looks angry, but above that he looks betrayed, and that makes Thor feel worse.

"I'm sorry," he says again. "What did father say to you?"

"He told me stop being childish." Loki's lip curls. "That there was nothing wrong with me and it was all in my head. I think he's lying to me."

Thor touches his bruising cheek and tries to think of something else to say that isn't sorry.

"Do you think there's something wrong with me?" Loki asks.

"No," Thor says immediately. "But I believe you."

"Good," Loki says.

He seems less angry now, though his stance is still on edge, ready to leave any minute. Thor swallows.

"Are you leaving, now?"

"No," Loki says. He turns and takes a seat on Thor's bed, arms still crossed. "No, I think I'll stay."

"What if father catches you?"

"He won't," Loki says, finally grinning. "There's a double in my bed. I can sneak back in by first light."

Thor's heart skips and he just smiles big and doesn't care that he probably looks stupid. He crawls into bed next to Loki and they lay with each other in the middle of the bed, as close as they can be without wearing each other as clothes.

-

They grin at each other across the table the next morning, giddy with their secret, feeling superior to their father, who's watching them with suspicion but unable to tell what's going on. Loki even lets Thor stay with him while he practices his magic, something he never does, but when Thor sits silently on the floor next to him Loki doesn't shoo him away.

It's fascinating to watch Loki do magic. It's far different from fighting, much more artistic. Loki's hands are beautiful and his fingers are long and to watch them twist and curl as he does magic is mesmerizing. Thor watches him for hours and he forgets that anything else even exists, not until Loki finally takes a break and Thor realizes that he was supposed to train with Sif.

"Dammit!"

He runs to the training grounds but she's not there, and Thor knows she's going to kick his ass for it later, for actually forgetting to train. He walks back to Loki's room slowly, taking his time to enjoy that last bit of sunlight left.

Sif interrupts him, appearing from behind a pillar and executing a punch to the solar plexus. Thor barely dodges it.

"Sif," he says. "Sif, hear me."

"You're a little late, Thor," she says. She cocks a hip out, arms crossed. She's always been threatening, even when they were children.

"I know," Thor says. "I'm sorry. I lost track of time."

Sif doesn't seem satisfied with that answer. "Oh? And what was so engrossing that you lost track of time?"

"Nothing. I mean, I was watching Loki practice his magic and I just...forgot."

"You were with Loki?" She sounds a little surprised, which Thor supposes isn't entirely unjustified, considering how much they'd grown apart recently.

"Aye," Thor says.

"Why are you suddenly spending so much time with Loki? It's weird."

Her tone, the way she says it, what she says, it makes Thor furious. Like he has to defend spending time with his own brother. He feels like too many people are trying to make him feel bad about it.

"There's nothing weird about it," Thor says. His voice is hard, unkind. "Why would I not spend time with my own kin, Sif?

Sif shakes her head. She looks less angry now, and a little shocked at Thor's outburst. "No, I just meant-"

Thor brushes past her. He doesn't want to hear anything else about what she may or may not have meant. He ignores everyone else he passes as well.

He doesn't want to see anyone but Loki.

-

How it happens is Thor wakes up and his erection is pressed against the seam of Loki's ass and Loki has a hand on his wrist. The first instinct, the natural instinct, should be to run, or create some sort of excuse or anything other than pushing his hips forward. But that's what he does. Thor doesn't breathe, and that moment seems like an eternity. He presses his hips further into Loki, just enough to increase the pressure, and Loki's hand loosens on his wrist before tightening again.

And for a long while neither of them move, but then Loki rolls over, so fucking slowly, so that he faces Thor, and his expression is probably similar to Thor's - wide-eyed, terrified and embarrassed and aroused.

It's just the two of them there in Thor's bed, suddenly hyper aware of every movement of their bodies, every slight breath they take. Both too scared to make the first move, because maybe it was a mistake, and they can just forget about it, laugh it off. Thor swallows and feels his Adam's apple bob painfully against his throat, and then Loki slides forward and kisses him.

That's all it is at first: a kiss. They're so careful about it, so frightened by it, slowly breathing into each other's mouths and trying to figure out what it means, eyes still wide open. Different, but still alike, still brothers, still aware of how wrong it is but not caring enough to stop.

Thor takes the next step, slides his tongue in carefully, like he hasn't kissed almost a dozen girls before this, and here's where they finally close their eyes. Loki's lips are just a little thinner, and when Thor's tongue touches his he sucks in a deep breath and just shivers, a small vibration on the bed. He pushes himself flush against Thor, their crotches pressed together tight, radiating heat. Thor rests a hand on the small of Loki's back and shifts his hips upwards again, a slow grind, and this time there's friction, perfect friction and Loki's own erection pressing against his.

And then there's the small, almost silent moan that Loki lets out and Thor swallows it down before trying to draw out another.

"Thor," Loki says, breaking away for air. His voice has never sounded like that before, especially on his name. "Brother," he says.

"Shh," Thor says, and kisses him again. He's afraid Loki is going to say something else, something like stop or what is wrong with you, so Thor keeps kissing him, maybe bites a little too hard at his lips. He shoves his hand down the front of Loki's pants just to feel him, wet with pre-come, and Loki bucks into Thor's fist and comes hard, whining into his mouth. The feel of Loki against him, of his come trickling over Thor's hand sets him off as well and he moans loudly, finally feeling like something is out in the open that should have been a a long time ago.

They go still again after it's all over, Thor with his hand still curled around Loki's softening cock, their mouths still attached. Eventually, Loki pulls away and they can't seem to do anything except stare at each other again, so Thor says the first thing that comes to mind.

"I'm sorry."

Loki hits him, right on the upside of his head and Thor hisses, holding his head to protect himself from another blow.

"Ow! Loki - why -"

"You're not sorry," Loki says. "Don't you dare be sorry."

It takes Thor a minute, but he understands what Loki is saying, why he didn't pull away, why he's not staring at him in absolute disgust.

"I'm not sorry," Thor says. He searches Loki's eyes. "Are you?"

Loki shakes his head, and they understand each other better than they ever have or maybe ever will, in that moment they at least know what they both are feeling.

"I have to leave before father wakes up," Loki says, and kisses Thor on the month once more.

Thor nods and watches him go, chest heavy.

-

Loki's lips are a little swollen at breakfast.

Thor has to try very, very hard not to stare.

-

The rest of the day turns into a losing battle not to kiss Loki whenever possible. It's a risky thing they're doing, so Thor manages to control himself somewhat, but he keeps a possessive hold on Loki's waist whenever he can, pulling his brother flush against him.

Loki doesn't make it any easier, with this shit eating grin and the way he stretches next to Thor, long legs flexing.

"You should not tempt me like this," Thor whispers.

"I'm doing nothing," Loki says, knowing exactly exactly what he's fucking doing.

They don't think about what else this means, them together, brothers touching each other in a way that brothers never should. They're too caught up in the lust of it, the terrifying newness of it all. If they stop to think about it and what it really means, then everything will fall apart. Thor knows that much.

He doesn't want it to fall apart.

They're sitting together outside when a guard comes. They're a respectful distance apart, and Loki glares at the guard for his interruption.

"Thor, your father wishes to see you."

Thor and Loki exchange quick, worried glances. They couldn't have gotten caught, not so soon. Thor stands up tries to prepare himself for the worst. If it were really bad, he thinks their father would have forgone the guard all together, and just would have come out in a fit of rage. This must be something else.

"I'll find you later," Thor says to Loki, and follows after the guard.

-

Odin is sitting on the throne when Thor enters, which is a good thing because when Odin is angry he can never sit still. Thor bows before him, a formality, a sign of respect.

"Rise, my son."

Thor does, and realizes that he's shaking a little. He manages to still himself, stares straight into his father's eye.

"You called for me, father?"

"Yes," Odin says, and rises. Thor stands his ground, still tense even when his father places a reassuring hand on his shoulder.

"I know you're probably still angry with me," Odin says. "But know that I love you and Loki. You are my sons. And one day you will see that everything I do for you, I do with a greater purpose in mind."

Thor swallows.

"You and Loki have to be there for each other when I can't," his father says. "Never forget that you are brothers."

Thor almost collapses. Almost. His throat tightens up and his knees feel weak as a baby's. He feels sick. He feels like he's done something wrong, something horribly fucking wrong and he'll never be able to fix it. And what's worse is that he's still not sorry, he knows it's sick and he's not sorry.

Not at all.

"Yes," Thor says. "I won't forget."

-

Loki crawls into bed with Thor around midnight, pushing him down against the mattress and kissing him. Thor kisses back, sighing.

"What did father want," Loki says, pulling back some. His breath is sweet and feather light across Thor's face.

Thor pulls Loki back into a kiss, rough, demanding, rolling them so that Loki is underneath and just kissing him. It's like if he kisses him long enough, the reality of it will be forgotten. He's tired of thinking about it. He's just so tired.

If Loki is surprised by it, he doesn't show it. He kisses back enthusiastically, wrapping his legs around Thor's waist and pushing up, trying to get more friction. But after a while, when Thor won't let up, won't let Loki even move, he starts to squirm. Loki holds Thor's face with both hands and forces him to stop, looking up at Thor and searching his face for an answer.

"What's wrong?"

Thor has this insane, fleeting idea to suggest they just run away, start over somewhere else but he shakes it away.

"We're brothers," Thor says.

Loki drops his hands. It was a loaded sentence, and now it's just sitting there between them, spoken. They can't take it back.

"I know," Loki says quietly, and then even quieter, "I don't care."

Thor tries to smile, but it's a sad one, broken at the edges.

"People will never understand," he says.

Loki laughs shortly, and Thor does too, because they're never going to understand it either. And something about that is as funny as it is sad.

"I don't care." Loki runs a thumb over Thor's lower lip. "We're different, you and I. They'd never understand."

"But if they knew-"

Loki pushes his thumb against Thor's lips to silence him.

"I don't care," Loki says. He pulls his thumb away. "It's only us in the end, right?"

"Yes," Thor says. "Yes."

"Then touch me."

They manage to get their clothes off, this time. They undress each other slowly, still a little afraid of it all, and Thor stares unashamedly as Loki's cock once it's exposed, hard and already leaking.

"Stop staring," Loki says, blushing. He palms himself. "Thor. Take your pants off. Please."

Thor does, and then they're both naked, unsure of what to do for a moment, but Loki takes the initiative as usual, climbing into Thor's lap. He wraps himself around Thor with long limbs, and the position of it pushes Thor's cock between Loki's cheeks just so, trying to slip in. It surprises them both, but it also feels absolutely wonderful, so Thor rubs himself there, hips circling upwards. They still move so slowly against each other, Loki with his arms wrapped around Thor's neck, whining beautifully.

The friction, the position, it's something new, something Thor's never had time to think of before.

"Loki," he breathes. His voices sounds so rough, so undeniably aroused. "I want to be inside of you."

"Yeah," Loki says. He shivers against Thor.

They don't get that far. Loki bites Thor's neck and Thor comes, tightening his grip on Loki's hips and gritting his teeth so he doesn't make too much noise. Then he reaches between them and jerks Loki until he comes too, warm all over their stomachs.

Loki slumps against him and they don't move, not until it starts to get uncomfortable and their limbs fall asleep. They clean each other up, blushing when they make eye contact and Thor wonders if it will always be like this: hot and messy and a little tender, and then afterwards all the shame of reality.

They get back into their clothes and settle into bed. Thor spoons Loki from behind, wrapping an arm around him to keep him close, at least until morning. Loki uses his magic to snuff out the light.

Thor kisses the back of Loki's neck, saying over and over again in his head what he's afraid to say out loud. I love you. I'll be there for you. Always. And it's not what anyone meant for them, but that's just how it is. He thinks about their mother and father, about the Warriors Three and Sif and all of Asgard - asleep and completely unaware of what just happened, of what is happening. Everything is changing and no one can stop it. Not even them.

"Do you think there's something wrong with us?" Thor asks. He doesn't know why he asks, but some sick part of him wants to hear Loki's answer.

Loki's voice, when he finally speaks into the darkness, sounds thick, like he's been crying silently.

"Yes."

Thor holds him tighter. He holds him all night.

Loki is gone again in the morning.