Chapter 1: ab initio
Loki dates his existent in this world from his first meeting with Thor Odinson in Downton Abbey; the magnificent manor with its beautiful rooms and stunning decorations of arresting statues, paintings and refined walls of high pillars and ceilings with elegant chandeliers. There Loki sits in the main drawing-room with his betrothed and some of the maids that have gathered around, awaiting the arrival of His Royal Highness, Prince Thor.
The Earl of Downton and the rest of the house staff are in the front courtyard, watching the Morris-Cowley motor-car rapidly approaching. When it finally reaches them and stops, before the chauffeur or anyone else can open the door of the passenger seat, Thor pushes it with a loud cracking sound and stumbles out with a careless grace. His face is flushed and bright blue eyes stare deliriously at the Earl.
“Heimdall,” Thor greets the man who simply nods his head to a footman to take the Prince’s luggage from the back of the motor-car. And that is the first impression that Loki perceives regarding Thor on their first meeting; despondently beautiful and a rather bubbly drunkard, quite contradictory to what he had in mind from the images others had painted of the Prince upon talking with them.
Albeit intoxicated, Thor shakes his hand firmly. “You must be Loki, my most favourite cousin’s fiancé.”
Sigyn giggles at Thor. “Hush you. My sister will be envious of me if she to hear you.”
Thor, who finally realizes the absence of his other cousin, turns his gaze around the room.
“Lady Sif had to be excused. She had an utmost urgent matter in town that needed to be attended,” Heimdall tells him.
One of the footmen, who always serve Thor whenever he is in Downton, assists him in taking off his coat.
“Thank you, Fandral. Send a tray of whiskey to my room. I shall excuse myself for now.” Then he gives a very radiant smile to Loki, a smile that instantly catches his eye and Loki is momentarily breathless. “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Loki.”
Loki. The way Thor says his name with a slight drawl due to his intoxicated state, as if they have known each other for years, sounds intimate to his ears. Loki has to suppress the blush that threatens to surface as he watches the Prince exit the drawing-room.
“Is he always like that?” Loki asks Sigyn later as they have their tea in the sitting-room.
Sigyn sighs sadly. “My cousin is quite the drinker. It gets worse as he gets older.”
“No. I did not mean that. Is he always so… direct with others? Instead of referring me as ‘Duke’ or ‘Your Grace’, it is Loki.”
“Ah, you will have to get used to that, darling. Thor was never fond of titles.”
Loki spends the rest of the evening in one of the libraries in the south wing, reading ‘The Great Boer War.’ It is a rather dull book accounting every event that happened during the war in South Africa, and so Loki finds his concentration frequently drifting to the images of the drunkard Thor, with his charming smile and bright, feverish eyes.
A small knock pulls back his attention and Loki raises his gaze to the entrance of the library. There stands the golden-haired Prince who seems to be already freshened up for the dinner that will be served in an hour. His face is still red from the alcohol consumption he has taken in his room, but his eyes seem to be more alert than before.
“I cannot understand how you can focus on such a dreadful book so attentively.”
Loki immediately stands up, ready to greet Thor. “My lord.”
“Call me Thor, not milord, it makes me sound like a conspicuously uninteresting man, and I shall call you Loki.”
Loki is speechless and confused by the Prince’s unconventional behaviour, then Thor suddenly realizes the peculiarity of the situation and smiles sheepishly at the other man.
“Your grace, perhaps?”
It takes another moment for Loki to finally recover from his stupor and quickly responds; “As you allow me to refer to you by name, it is only fair that I offer you the same right in return.”
“Splendid!” He steps closer to Loki before sitting himself on the same sofa that Loki had previously occupied.
“Don’t just stand there. Come and sit, Loki. I want to be acquainted with my cousin’s fiancé. Sigyn wrote in her letter that she was betrothed to a Duke but did not tell me more than that. When I received her telegram saying that you were coming to visit Downton Abbey, I thought of shirking my Princely duties to come here. And I did, so here I am!”
“I apologize that you had to abandon—”
“Oh, don’t be. Actually I want to thank you. If not for you, I would still be toiling over some tedious task in the palace. Balder does everything better when I am not around anyway, he is the golden son, after all. Now tell me, how did you meet Sigyn? Was it love at first sight? Please do not say this is an arranged marriage because that will just be unexciting and horrid.”
It is also at this moment that Loki becomes attentive of the sudden warmness coiling inside him. Thor’s abiding attention of him is a surprise. He is watching Loki as if he is the one and only person to exist in the world. No one, not even Sigyn, had ever bestowed on him this kind of interest and Loki immediately becomes self-conscious but determined to impress Thor.
Little does he know that this is when he gradually develops an unconditional affinity for this strangely alluring man.
For the first three days of his stay in Downton Abbey, Loki spends his morning until luncheon with Sigyn and sometimes they will have tea together with Sif. He only sees Heimdall during breakfast, lunch, dinner and, sometimes, supper; as he is always busy with the affairs of Downton. The day always feel so long and insipid, a monotonous routine that becomes a haze at the back of his mind. When there is nothing to occupy his time, he explores the magnificent libraries and is already planning to tour every room in the manor. Heimdall had already given his consent.
He has already found five libraries before that fateful evening of his meeting with Thor in the Crimson Library. Loki feels utterly and completely purposeful in his life, feeling exuberantly alive for the first time.
In the morning he finds Thor inside his room, drinking port as he stares out through the high window. When he is aware of Loki’s eyes on him, he turns a dopey smile at the man in the bed.
If Thor continues at this rate, Loki is quite certain that the Prince will be highly intoxicated by luncheon. He wonders if Thor raids the wine cellar in the basement when everyone is asleep.
“Good morning, my dear. Sigyn wishes to have breakfast in the garden-room with the others. I will have to excuse myself as I already told Fandral that I shall have breakfast in my room. I ordered Fandral to ask erm— your valet—”
“Yes, Hogun. That lad always looks awfully grim, does he not? Anyway, Hogun informed Fandral of your meal preference; marinated salmon and poached eggs, roasted tomatoes and pickles. How peculiar! He shall serve them in my room. I included veal-and-ham pie and lemon cream cake to the menu. I love eating those for breakfast! Let’s have a lovely breakfast together, unless you wish to be with your fiancée and your future in-laws. We have been spending so much time together, have we not?”
Loki has to agree with Thor there.
This was Loki’s sixth day in Downton and Thor’s third, and it seemed that most of his days had been largely occupied by the Prince. After their first day of meeting they had gone to explore half of the house together. The next day they had played poker after dinner and Thor had even spent two hours in Loki’s room, coaxing the Duke into reading something to him; a bedtime story, as Thor would like to call it.
And yesterday they had spent the entire day in town visiting every shop they had come across. Sigyn had been a little upset that he had been so engaged with Thor, but eventually forgave him when he had remained in the drawing-room after dinner. Sif and Thor had soon joined them and they had all settled down to listen to Sigyn read ‘Under the Autumn Star.’
As the minutes had passed and Sigyn’s voice filled the room, Loki’s eyes had wandered to the other man sat opposite him. Thor sipping his sherry, absolutely immersed in Sigyn’s story-telling. Loki had lost all interest in the tale the moment his eyes had settled on Thor’s striking profile. Loki raised his cocktail to his lips, letting the liquid flow into his mouth when Thor abruptly turned his gaze and winked at him. He’d choked and nearly spilled some of his cocktail. Sif had simply given him a confused look while Sigyn had been all over him to make sure he was alright.
Loki had gone to his bedroom after that with Thor trailing behind him. As soon as he’d reached the door, he’d quickly entered his room and shut the door in Thor’s face. That would teach the Prince for making him look like a fool in front of the others.
Of course, looking at the golden-haired man now, Loki was not surprised to see Thor, who’d apparently found a way to unlock the door to his bedroom.
Thor sips his port and steps closer to the bed. His bright blue eyes linger on Loki in such a way that he can feel his skin flushing under Thor’s scrutiny. “So what shall it be? Breakfast with me?”
“You had me on salmon.”
“Excellent! I shall inform the rest that you will be joining me for breakfast.”
Thor then promptly tilts his head and presses his warm lips to Loki’s forehead. A soft gasp escapes between Loki’s lips as he stares at Thor with wide eyes, his heart thrumming loudly against his chest as he feels all the blood rush to his face. A strange heat flutters in his stomach and Loki is momentarily stunned.
A gentle smile adorns Thor’s lips. “It’s a good morning kiss. Mother always did that to me until Balder stole all of her attention.”
A subtle change passes through Thor’s visage. Something dark and poignant. But before he could confirm what he sees, Thor turns his back to Loki and walks to the bedroom door. He reaches for the knob and tells Loki that he shall meet him in his room in half an hour.
In the servant’s quarter, Hogun and Fandral are taking a quick meal before their call. Earlier, their breakfast with the rest of the house staff had been interrupted when the Prince had rang them. Volstagg, the Head Cook of Downton, had stashed some toast, bacon and poached eggs for them while they attended to the Duke and the Prince.
“It seems to me that His Royal Highness has bewitched His Grace,” comments Fandral.
Hogun responds quietly, “It is none of our business if His Grace wishes to be with the Prince.”
The Ladyships’ maid, who has been listening to their conversation as she is passing by, steps into the kitchen and interrupts them. “But it is odd that His Grace would rather spend time with a drunkard that he just met rather than Her Ladyship who he has known for far longer and intends to marry at that!”
“Amora, that is callous of you!”
“Honestly Fandral, how could you respect such a disgraceful man as Prince Thor?”
Volstagg appears behind her and booms angrily, “Enough, Amora! Neither would I like to hear anymore heinous words from you, nor do I want to see your repulsive self in this kitchen right now. If you have business here, say it quick and scamper off!”
Amora glares at the big, burly man before she looks at Hogun. “Her Ladyship calls for you.”
Loki is enjoying his breakfast and he can see that Thor is profoundly pleased. A knock on the door alerts Thor and he calls in the person. A surly-looking man steps in and bows to Thor and Loki. The Prince greets the man with a cheery grin.
“Hello, Hogun. Did Sigyn send you here?”
“Yes, my lord. Her Ladyship wishes to see His Grace in the Japanese Room after breakfast.”
The Japanese Room is the only sitting-room in Downton that is designed with Victorian Japanese paintings and ornaments and where the walls are adorned with sakura tree wallpaper. He has been there once when Sigyn invited him for tea with her sister during his first day of stay in Downton. Loki suppresses a sigh and responds nonchalantly. “Very well. I will be there in a few minutes.”
When Hogun leaves the room, Thor looks at him sheepishly as his blue eyes twinkle with amusement.
“It seems that my favourite cousin is envious of our companionship. She must be missing you! I apologize for always stealing you away with me. You must be missing her terribly too.”
Loki mentally ponders the blasé reaction that he is currently feeling. He has not pined for his fiancée for the last two days and he is not even concerned if she yearns for his presence.
“You don’t have to be sorry, Thor. I really enjoy of our time together and I’m looking forward to entertaining myself with you today. After I spend an hour with Sigyn, let’s meet in the garden-room and carry on with our exploration. I would love to inspect the garden.”
Thor laughs. “You astound me, Loki! The most charming and delightful man I have ever come across. I am genuinely fond of you right at this moment.”
And this time, Loki does not mind at all if Thor witnesses his flushing face. His heart is swelling with a very peculiar kind of feeling as he carries on with his meal.
Their little private breakfast is forced to be a one-time affair as Sigyn claims that she is seeing Loki less and insists he indulge in some time with her during their mealtime. She also promises not to interrupt any of her fiancé’s business with her cousin as long as he is always available whenever Sigyn desires to have tea with him.
“I am pleased that you are quite attached to Thor even though his drinking habit is repulsive to anyone who meets him. Nevertheless, I find it’s unfair that my cousin occupies most of your time while your fiancée has to seek you out and request your presence.”
At first, Loki is terribly annoyed and affronted that she could simply dictate how he wishes to spend his time in Downton. He is already livid by the time the Prince meets him in the garden-room, so he informs Thor of his current predicament. But Thor wheedles him into consenting with her as long as they could spend more time together.
“Not to worry. My cousins spend most of their time attending tea parties in town. Sigyn will probably have tea with you twice or thrice in the next few days. Really, Loki… how many times have you had tea with her since arriving in Downton? I guess twice. And I know I am right just by looking at your face. Come now, let’s move on with our adventure in the garden. I brought lemonade for you and champagne for myself. Fandral even packed some ham sandwiches and cheesecake that Volstagg had baked for luncheon! Bless those lads!”
Loki is betrothed to Sigyn for her dowry. On his father’s deathbed, Laufey had confessed to Loki and his two brothers, Byleistr and Helblindi, of their financial predicament which threatened their livelihood and their assets. Soon they would be bankrupt and their lawyers could not provide any funds to save their estate and maintains their other businesses.
Sigyn’s dowry was their only salvation, Laufey insinuated as such. Because of the desperation and despondency of the situation and its imminent outcome, Loki had not been given the opportunity to think of any other means but to propose the sister of the Earl of Downton.
It seemed to him that all this time since his first meeting with Sigyn at a charity ball, an event that Laufey has forced him to attend on behalf of his father, had been a plot orchestrated simply to make his acquaintance with Sigyn. Laufey had known that he would be charmed by Sigyn’s intelligence whilst she would be enamored by whatever it was that she saw in Loki.
But her appeal eroded after they’d gotten engaged during mid-spring, two months after Laufey’s death. He’d made himself busy with matters of the estate while his two brothers looked after the family businesses. Then, just like every week, he had received a letter from Sigyn, but this time the content of her letter had piqued his curiosity of the unknown. Sigyn has cordially invited him to stay with her in Downton Abbey and Loki could not resist accepting such a request. Downton was well-known for its beauty that is both breathtaking and moving. Everyone who had been a guest and stayed there long enough claimed they left with a sense of transformation within themselves.
He’d been essentially awed by Downton Abbey at the beginning of his stay... But when Loki had met Thor and acquired an incongruous affinity for the poignant man, Loki grasped that Downton and its beauty would never affect him as much as Thor did.
Thor’s bright blue eyes, like the enchanting hazy blue of a summer sky, have drawn Loki like a moth that is beckoned to a light. Thor, the beautiful Prince who spends most of his days drinking brandy, champagne, port, sherry, vermouth, whisky; attracts him with his booming laughter as he cheerfully drags Loki around, not that he needs to be convinced to be with Thor, and showers him with unconditional devotion which Loki laps up willingly and enthusiastically. And when Thor is sober, like that particular day that they went to town, Loki sees something melancholic in his gait and his deep blue eyes smouldering like a storm. All of this, sober and intoxicated Thor, appeals to Loki incessantly.
Sometimes Loki wonders when it all started; when he was no longer able to think of anything but Thor, when the first thing that came into his mind every morning was ‘what shall I do today with Thor’, when he started to be genuinely content with life and think of the future, a future that did not include his fiancée but Thor. Though he still wonders what it is all supposed to mean, but he is never truly bothered by these thoughts.
Every day, Thor would slip into his bedroom at the crack of dawn and waits until he woke up to kiss Loki on the forehead which always left a pleasant tingling feeling inside his chest. Then they would have their breakfast with the Earl and his two sisters, Loki sitting next to his fiancée and Thor beside Lady Sif. Loki would watch Thor furtively, trailing his gaze over every inch of his tanned skin, the elegant slope of his nose, the subtle curl of his golden eyelashes and the peppering of sun-kissed facial hair across his jaw. Eyes staring fixatedly as Thor’s throat bobbed when he sipped his black coffee and his pink lips glistening when he licked them.
Loki is always taken aback by his beauty.
Then they would explore Downton together as they walk along the hallways and hidden passages with their shoulders brushing and hands grazing like a lover’s whisper. When Loki finds a new room that is filled with books, they tumble onto the sofa, a book in Loki’s hand, and Thor’s head will find its way to Loki’s lap and he will read until his throat is parched. When the weather is fine and dandy, they will have a picnic in the garden with a basket of fresh strawberries, apricot-jam sandwiches, apple tarts, vanilla cream cake, rhubarb pie, chocolate butter cookies, lemonade and champagne, all while traipsing and giggling like two little boys under the sun. And sometimes Thor will sneak his two arms around Loki’s waist from behind and pull their bodies close together.
Loki feels extraordinarily happy and forgets the existent of all but themselves. And Loki finds himself seeking and cherishes more moments like this. It still does not bother him that he feels this way, that Sigyn is not the cause of this incandescent euphoria that awakens within him.
For several days they stay that way, as Loki immerses himself deeply into their secret world; desiring not only to be with Thor, but with the man who inspires this strange feeling within him that he cannot decipher nor find it in him to be concerned about. It makes him feel felicitously whole.
Unfortunately, Sigyn keeping her promise to not disturb their business, as she refers to it, is short-lived. It is Thor’s eleventh day and Loki’s fourteenth day stay in Downton when Sigyn remarks during their usual breakfast that she wants Loki to accompany her to town. He, with a forced smile, agrees to be her escort. Their outing in town consists of mundane luncheon and insipid tea parties hosted by Sigyn’s debutante friends. It is so terribly dreadful that he wishes to be anywhere but there. It is only later that night, after they have had their supper in a place that served turtle soup, fricasseed chicken, vol-au-vent of mushroom, braised capon, and Italian cream cake, that they could go back to Downton. The food is undeniably delicious but Loki chooses not to notice it as he thinks about how lonely Thor would be without him. Probably raiding the wine cellar, he thinks affectionately. Loki sorely misses his golden Prince.
As soon as his feet touch Downton soil, he leaves Sigyn’s side with a quick good night and goes to search for Thor. Fandral informs him that the Prince has taken his leave early and so he rushes off to Thor’s room. It is locked and Loki goes to his own room dismayed.
The next morning when he wakes up, with a number of bad dreams accompanying his sleep throughout the night, Loki glances to his window where Thor normally likes to be. He sees no one there and so with a pang of disappointment he sits up and sighs forlornly.
A shuffle of paper catches his attention and there is Thor sitting on the sofa with a book in his hand. Something finally lifts off Loki’s chest and he has the sudden urge to hug and strangle Thor at the same time.
Realizing that Loki is already awake, Thor breaks the silence in the room, “How would you feel if you found out you are in love with a person who is already attached to another?”
He blinks at the puzzling query and before he can give a response Thor raises the book, Loki can see the title Under the Autumn Star, and he explains, “Knut finds out he is attracted to the Captain’s wife, Lovise. But he moves on with his life, away from Lovise. It is depressing. Love is supposed to make one content. If I am in love, I want to be with that person for eternity.”
“Even if she is married?”
Thor merely shrugs his shoulders. Then he stands up and places the book on the coffee table and moves to Loki’s bed. An anxious feeling overwhelms Loki and he knows he is already flushing profusely as his stomachs flutters helplessly. Loki raises his head higher, uncertain of the reason he is doing so but only knows that he wants to feel and smell more of Thor. A day without Thor is like a drought of summer in the land of Palestine.
Thor’s lips end up on Loki’s nose and he could feel Thor smiling into the kiss.
Then he pulls away and looks into Loki’s eyes, lips still curved in amusement. “Good morning.”
“Good morning to you.”
“I missed you.”
“I missed you too,” Loki whispers, his eyes locked onto doting summer blue. His heart stammers when he realizes for the first time that Thor is happily sober. The Prince always has the air of gloom and weariness when he is not intoxicated which Loki finds fascinating too. But seeing his golden Prince clear-headed without a touch of grimness in his manner and feature causes his heart to soar.
Loki grins brightly at him and declares with excitement, “We shall have our breakfast in here. Sigyn had me yesterday. We deserve to spend the morning together!”
Loki informs Hogun of his arrangement and requests for that day’s breakfast to be sent to his room with additional requests of pickled herrings and sour cream for himself and meringue with whipped cream for Thor.
Unfortunately, Loki’s plan to spend his time with Thor alone is thwarted when he sees the two maids preparing extra silverwares and a seat. Thor watches them curiously for a while and when they are done, he calls for one of the maids that goes by the name Jane to query the extra guest, and Loki glares furiously when he sees the girl blush under the Prince’s gaze.
“I am told that Her Ladyship is to have breakfast here with His Highness and His Grace,” replies Jane.
Sigyn arrives with a brilliant smile. And Loki has to force himself to kiss Sigyn on the cheek no matter how incensed he is feeling at that moment.
“Good morning, gentlemen. I am sorry to barge in without an invitation. I am merely curious at why my fiancé would rather take his breakfast with my cousin than with the others. And I feel quite bereft if I do not see Loki in the morning.”
Sigyn looks at the food on the table and raise one delicate eyebrow when he sees the pickled herrings. “Oh darling, if you really insist on having all the delicacies of pickled seafood, I could tell the Head Cook to add it in the breakfast menu. I apologize for being unaware of your taste preference throughout your stay in Downton. I am a poor hostess and fiancée.”
Loki is just too annoyed with Sigyn’s sudden meddling to say anything so, Thor responds with a smile of his own, light but grim. “You aren’t, my dearest. Besides, how did you know the pickled herrings are for Loki? Those may be for me.”
Sigyn giggles. “When one spends time with you, one comes to realise that you have a ridiculous sweet tooth. The meringue is obviously for you.”
The breakfast affair becomes the starting point which Loki deems his fiancée to be the most bothersome individual he has ever known. And for the rest of the day Loki is hopelessly frustrated. Sigyn seems to intrude upon every single leisure activity that Thor and Loki usually do together. She demands for a picnic luncheon in the garden and to make matters worse, Sif is also pulled along and Loki wonders if Sigyn is capable of a constructing ploy to prevent him having a single private moment with Thor.
Sigyn and Sif speak of everything while Loki only concentrates in sharing the cold pheasant pie and blueberry dumplings with Thor. This is his only opportunity to sit close to the Prince, to feel that Thor is still there and no one is going to come between them.
Fandral runs into the two giggling maids who have just finished preparing the silverware on the dinner table and are leaving the room. “Jane and Darcy. What a lovely sight to see you two so amused. Care to share what has you so merry?”
Darcy smirks, “Jane is fawning over His Highness again.”
“Isn’t he beautiful, Fandral?”
“Jane, you silly girl, you always say the same thing every time he’s in Downton.”
“But this time he seems happy. So alive. So vibrant!” Jane nearly squeals at the end of her statement while Darcy simply rolls her eyes in amusement.
Then Darcy turns serious eyes on them. “Don’t you think there is something queer going on between His Highness and His Grace?”
Before anyone could reply the Head Butler of Downton, Erik Selvig, walks into the parlour and stares sternly at Fandral, Jane, and Darcy. “Is there any reason for the three of you to congregate here?”
All three of them apologize immediately, “Sorry, Mr. Selvig.”
“Won’t happen again,” Fandral adds on with a charming smile at the butler before the three of them go their separates ways to complete their duties for the day.
Dinner in Downton turns into a reticent affair and only the occasional exchange of words between Sif and Sigyn accompanies the quiet clamour of the silverware. It is common for Heimdall to not speak with anyone during the rest of the dinner, but Thor’s usual liveliness seems to be absent and there is the familiar sombreness on his features and storm in his dark blue eyes that Loki had not seen during the day.
Loki’s hand tightens on his knife as he cuts through his second course of mutton haunch as he thinks of the unsatisfactory and disappointing day he had had to go through. Perhaps Thor feels as he does, explaining his misery.
“Oh, what a wonderful idea!” Sigyn unexpectedly declares and Loki snaps out of his thoughts. He looks at his fiancée, a little baffled with the sudden exclamation but soon realizes that Sif must have said something to elicit such a vigorous response.
Sigyn giggles at the look she receives from Loki and simply says, “Let’s go hunting tomorrow.”
Sif, who shares the same enthusiasm as her sister, smiles. “It’s been a while since the hounds have enjoyed a hunt. Tomorrow will be a perfect day for hunting! If Lady Luck is on our side, our dear hounds may catch a few foxes.”
“I must refuse,” Heimdall immediately interjects.
“It is alright, brother. We know that you must be present for the Conservative Men to choose the new chairman. ”
Then Sigyn turns to look at her fiancé with a grin. “Sleipnir is our most docile horse. You can have him, darling.”
Loki has to force another smile to his fiancée and it seems to him that this situation is becoming painful to endure. He wonders if Sigyn could see how unhappy he is right now and if this is another chastisement towards him for spending more time with her cousin than her for the past few days. He knows that Sigyn is not an imbecile; otherwise he would not have been attracted to her in the first place.
Something is going on…
His eyes widen as the sudden realization hits him. Sigyn is jealous. She must be displeased with the recent lack of attention from her fiancé and is committing this childish but apt ploy for Loki’s attention. He is completely and utterly offended and outraged at Sigyn’s selfishness. They would tie the knot next year and by then Sigyn would have him for the rest of her life. It is incredulous that she sought so much of him right now and Loki wonders if this is her show of possessiveness over him.
Loki has to control himself from doing something un-gentlemanly, like slamming his eating utensils on the table and yelling at her insensibility.
Thor, whose summer blue eyes only need to glance at him to breathe life into his soul, had captured him and marked every essence of Loki, and he could not let go of the fire that Thor had sparked within him. He was not going to lose Thor because of a lady with malicious emotions.
The exultant chatter between Sigyn and Sif fills the dining room. Loki wonders if Thor realizes the intent of this wicked green-eyed monster that happens to be his favourite cousin. But the worst thought that comes over Loki is that this lady is his fiancée. His intended. Loki’s future.
And abruptly, Loki finds himself questioning his engagement with Sigyn.
Loki lets his gaze wander over Thor when the golden prince orders cognac from Fandral and the excitement in the room gradually vanishes. Everyone in the room watches surreptitiously as Thor consumes his poison. Heimdall looks like he is glaring at his food, Sif cuts her mutton a little too hard and Sigyn becomes subdued as she speaks to her sister. This, however, is a familiar scene that Loki has discerned ever since the first dinner they had with Thor. Their abhorrence for his golden prince is evidently plain on their faces.
Loki thinks how vilipend they perceive Thor and how only Loki could see him in a different light and genuinely appreciates him for who he was.
It is the middle of the night when Loki hears movement in his bedroom. His mind, though hazy from sleep, immediately warns him that an intruder is inside the room and his hand reaches instinctively for the small knife under his pillow before his eyes snap open. And just like that morning there is Thor, sitting on the sofa, though with a glass of red wine in hand in place of the book. On the coffee table is a lit candle, a bottle of Merlot and a half-eaten bar of chocolate.
Loki sits up and glares groggily at Thor. “It’s late and we shall be hunting early in the morn.”
“I shan’t go hunting. I used to love it until nine years ago. I cannot stomach anymore killing. I am uncertain if Sif has knowledge of this but Sigyn is aware of it and yet she wants to go hunting. With you, certainly! But to suggest that in which she knows I find no joy in? Such an inconsiderate woman!”
“I thought she was your favourite cousin.”
“Not anymore. She is exactly like Balder. Balder took Mother away from me. I do not care for Father though. He pushed me too hard and I despise him for that. His subjects like to call him Odin the Wise, but he is not. Odin the Wicked, that he is. And now Sigyn is taking you away from me. I am very much devoted to you, do you know that?”
Thor sips his wine and continues with a tone of sorrow, “I am very contrite that I woke you up. You look so lovely when you sleep. I shall leave you in a minute.”
“Don’t. I—” Loki leaves his bed and goes to sit on the sofa next to Thor. “If it’s any comfort to you, I’d rather like you to stay here longer. The day did not turn out so well and I still miss you... What happened nine years ago?”
There is a wistful smile on Thor’s lips. “Remember that book you were reading the first day we met? I was only twenty-two during the last year of Boer war and many had perished by then. We fought the Transvaal and the Oranje Vrijstaat. The guerrilla campaign was traumatising. Just witnessing those people dying around me gave me nightmares, even now. Most of them died of illness. There were diseases that spread all through the ranks. They were my comrades, you see; my brothers. The worst was the children that we sent to the concentration camp. Every night there were new bodies and they kept piling up. It ended up being a mass burial. I left one night and I never looked back.”
It is devastating for Loki to see the man before him. Thor is incandescently miserable with an air of darkness about him. But he is still oppressively beautiful behind that grimness. Loki wonders how such a broken man could bring him so much delight, could bring back the youth that he thought he had lost a long time ago. Nonetheless, it still does not change his affection for this golden prince. Everything that had caused pleasure and misery to Thor is what made Thor the man he is now, and Loki wants to commit this moment to his memory, so that the next time Loki is in despair, he shall never feel alone as he remembers this particular night.
Thor raises the wine glass to Loki with a rueful grin. “This gives me a great comfort.”
You never look back, but you never let go either, Loki wants to say but instead he takes the half-empty glass from Thor, fills it with more red wine until the brim and then downs the entire glass. Thor looks at him in amazement.
“You will have an awful morning after.”
“Don’t care.” Loki fills the glass again.
Thor chuckles and hands him the bar of chocolate. “You should try this dark chocolate. It goes well with the wine.”
Thor is right. The morning after is horrendous. He has the most terrible headache and the sun is shining far too brightly for so late into summer. Bless Hogun for the hot towels. When Sigyn finds out, she is exceptionally furious and if not the fact he was suffering a massive hangover, he would have cheered merrily.
“I am very distraught, Loki. You should be ashamed of yourself. We shall talk more of this after I come back from the hunt.” Then Sigyn leaves him to his peaceful resting.
Hogun merely sighs but there is a hint of amusement in his eyes as he hands him a cup of coffee. “May I speak my mind, Your Grace?”
“Mr. Selvig was mortified to find that there was three Merlot and two Burgundy wine bottle missing from the basement. Perhaps His Grace knows what happened to them?”
Loki smirks at his valet. “I was not involved with such pillaging, Hogun. However, Thor is brilliant when it comes to raiding the wine cellar. I only drink his loot.”
During dinner Loki is surprised and annoyed to see everyone is glaring openly at Thor and not himself, as if Thor is at fault for luring him to drink. The talk that Sigyn promised to have with him happens after dinner, but it is Sif who approaches him.
Everyone, including the Earl himself, follows Sigyn to the drawing-room. In her hand is a blue hardcover entitled The Tangled Skein, which she had started reading to them three nights ago. Loki narrows his eyes at her chosen novels so far. First it was Under the Autumn Star, a tale about the woeful love of a forlorn wanderer, and now a tragic romantic tale that so far tells of jealousy, manipulation and unfulfilled desire. It is dauntingly sinister and deems like an imminent omen to Loki.
Thor is a few steps ahead of him and is already inside the room with Heimdall and Sigyn when he feels a soft hand grasp his arm firmly. Loki turns his head and narrows his eyes at Sif’s cold gaze.
“I wish to speak to you for a moment. Let’s go to the foyer, shall we? Thor will not miss your absence for a while.
Loki cannot help but notice the subtle hint of repugnance in her tone when she speaks of Thor and instinctively he glares at her as he feels defensive on Thor’s behalf.
“And what is that supposed to mean?”
Sif ignores him as she turns away. With the enormous amount of control that Loki has to hold onto, he trails behind her in a livid state until they reach the foyer to the Summer Parlour.
“You are obviously fond of my cousin, aren’t you?” Sif imposes on him immediately.
“Why, certainly! Does it matter to you?”
“It does matter to me because you are my sister’s fiancée, no matter how much I rejected the notion of you marrying her. Sigyn’s happiness is mine too and she is content with you. Why would I do something to jeopardize your relationship with Sigyn? But Thor will drag you down with him. The missing wine is clearly his fault and I cannot believe you would let yourself get involved. You must know that Thor is a disappointment to his family, especially to his father, and to his country. Don’t let yourself be ruined by him.”
“Is he a disappointment to his country because he ran away from a war that also sent children to a concentration camp? Is he a disappointment to his family because he drinks and they have no idea what kind of misery he is enduring alone? None of you wants to take the time to hear his woe and be there for him. All of you are just bloody idiots who only care for your damn tea parties and charity balls hosted by pompous bastards!” Loki yells in outrage. He has never felt so much anger in his life and he does not care that he just cursed in front of a lady that will soon be his sister-in-law. Perhaps not, he thinks, for the thought of this damn woman as his in-law, who speaks ill of Thor, is just appalling.
What truly bothers him is that he finally realizes the actual cause of Thor’s misery. And Loki grieves for him.
Disappointment to his family, to his father, and to his country.
His heart grips painfully, so he leaves Sif hastily and rushes to his room, locks the door and falls to his hands and knees. It is also at this moment of despair, without the least expecting it, that he finally understands this intriguing fascination and endless devotion for his golden prince.
Loki finds himself hopelessly and violently in love with Thor.
Chapter 2: finem respice
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
Loki adores Thor, like the sky reveres the sun and the stars adulate the moon. But this love for Thor, like the fragile buds of spring, so delicate and beautiful, has an air of sinisterness, doomed to conclude into something precious and poignant which will leave Loki austerely hollow.
Loki is fearful of these newly named feelings, because for the first time in his life he feels severely lost, uncertain as to how he should act around Thor now that these feelings have come to light. He is Sigyn’s fiancé, though perhaps not for long, because he now knows that he will never be content with her. But will he acquire a fulfilling ending with Thor?
After the unpleasant talk he had with Sif and this startling discovery of his feelings for the Prince, his despair is carried along into his sleep. Loki does not find peace in his dreams.
The next morning, despite the remnants of forbidding feelings from last night, the absence of his golden Prince causes disappointment as he truly desires the familiarity of Thor’s presence. He seeks for those ardent lips that always make his skin warm under their touch and those summer sky eyes that never fail to seize his heart.
Hogun comes into the room and is also surprised to find Thor absent. He had gotten so used to seeing Thor hanging out in Loki’s room from the crack of dawn that it had become a custom for him to serve both the Prince and the Duke until Fandral came to assist him.
Loki looks at Hogun and he knows that his valet can see the discontent on his face. “Perhaps Thor is still sleeping,” Loki tells him, and he wonders if he is just reasoning with himself to dull the pain in his chest.
“I am very delighted to serve only His Grace.”
Loki merely snorts, amused and grateful that his valet is trying to lighten the mood.
Unfortunately, Thor’s absence even extends through breakfast and everything that Loki consumes taste horridly vile in his mouth. There is a chocolate soufflé and an orange cream cake sat on the table, obviously for Thor, and just the sight of the desserts upset Loki greatly.
He misses Thor awfully and he intends to murder the Prince for making him feel this way.
“I presume that Thor shan’t be having breakfast with us. Let Fandral deliver those to his room. No matter how upset he is he mustn’t go through the morning on an empty stomach.”
Loki moves his gaze to his fiancée, disgusted by her feigned compassion for her cousin, but he diverts to Sigyn’s earlier statement and queries after what troubles Thor.
“There was a telegram for Thor that came this morning. It was from His Majesty.”
His heart falters. The sense of dismay overwhelms Loki to the point that he almost wants to excuse himself so he can run to Thor. Some kind of desperation and rage claws inside Loki’s chest as he pictures Thor leaving Downton.
Downton would never be the same.
But the fact is, Loki would never be the same, not without Thor.
Thor will take away a piece of him, or feasibly everything of Loki and leave behind an empty vessel. It is frightening because Thor actually has that kind of effect on him, and it is distressing because Loki does not want his golden prince to leave him, to leave his world detached and colourless.
As soon as he finishes his anchovy toast he immediately takes his leave, uncaring of the surprised look he receives from his fiancée due to his swift departure as he rushes to Thor’s room. Despite not knowing what exactly to expect, the pain in his chest still fails to mitigate even after his eyes finally land on the Prince’s back that is facing him.
Thor is on the balcony; Loki thinks that he is looking at the garden, or perhaps he is not seeing anything at all but is instead lost in his mind. The telegram is clenched in his hand and Loki dreads to know the contents of the paper. When he steps further into the room Thor turns to face him and there is a despondently vacant look on his face and Loki’s heart grips tighter, fearing the worst.
“I absolutely detest myself,” Thor tells him, his lips pressed into a grim line.
“Wha— why would you feel that way?”
Thor leaves the balcony and walks into the room. He steps closer to Loki and the action elicits the now too familiar fluttering feeling in his stomach as his heart thrums with a strange sort of desperation.
“Look at you, appearing remorseful on my behalf. I do not wish for such a look to mar your lovely face.” Then Thor closes the gap between them. His hand grips his jaw gently to plant a kiss on the skin above his brow like he did every morning. Loki’s face flushes with a pleasant warmth and his heart soars with happiness. He feels so much in love at that moment that he has the sudden desire to reach for Thor and hold him close. He imagines himself laying his head on Thor’s shoulder and staying like that forever. But he does neither of these things as he relishes the heat of Thor’s touch.
“I feel regret for not being able to do this, and that I was not there to greet you as you awoke this morning. I look so miserable, do I not? There is a lot in my mind right now. Sometimes I wonder if I am going crazy. If one day I do end up in the madhouse, please do visit me, make sure you bring some vino santo and biscotti cookies for me.”
“Sigyn mentioned a telegram from your father.”
Thor leaves his side and practically throws his weight onto the sofa. He heaves a sigh and places the telegram on the table across from him. “Father wants me to go back. Father threatened me! He dared to threaten me with my own brother that he would send to Downton to drag me back to the palace!”
The fleeting contentment in his heart is replaced with something painful. Even though he already knows the answer to it, he asks Thor, “What must you do?”
“I must leave.”
His heart stutters and his stomach drops. He is immensely dismayed and the world around him suddenly becomes a cruel reality; the chirping of the birds from outside annoy him, the cold breeze that creeps into the room feels like an icy chill and the sweet smell of blossoms from the garden repulse him.
Loki is angry, and Thor, who has not discerned the current wrath that is raging within him, rings for Fandral.
The sound of the bell threatens to unleash something inside Loki and he reaches for Thor’s arm when the Prince stands up, ready to pack for his leave.
“Thor,” he calls, his hand grasping the prince’s arm. The skin is warm there and his heart beats painfully for this man. Cerulean eyes look at him and the words on his lips abruptly die. There are so many things he wants to tell Thor.
Please don’t go.
I love you.
Don’t forget me.
Somehow, like a broken bond between lovers, it feels like this shall be the last time they are together; Thor would go back to his world and perhaps remain astray without Loki there to be his light; however, Loki feels he is the one who is losing his illumination.
Thor takes Loki’s hand from his arm and cradles it in his own hands, kissing every digit as if he is bestowing his last devotion to Loki and it hurts him so profoundly. Every pressure of Thor’ lips leave a scar deep inside his skin and Loki wants to weep.
“I heard what you said to Sif last night.”
“You were eavesdropping.”
“I’m sorry,” Thor plants another kiss, this time to his knuckle, and Loki falls for him all over again.
“You must know that it is not Sif or anyone’s fault. I cannot speak of my pain nor seek comfort for the grief I feel, but you are different. Being with you has been the best thing to ever occur in my life. You saved me, Loki… in every way that a person can be saved. And for that I am eternally grateful to you.”
There is a knock that alerts them to Fandral’s presence. With a rueful smile Thor lets go of his hand, and Loki stops existing right at that moment.
“His Grace has been too apathetic lately. Amora told me Her Ladyship is rather upset with his recent behaviour. She is releasing her irritation upon Amora; criticizing her needle work and belittling every chore that she carries out to a standard that Her Ladyship deems unsatisfactory—”
“Amore deserves it! She is an incorrigible she-devil.”
Jane casts a reproachful gaze at Fandral before she continues, “Lady Sif appears to be restless and His Lordship has been oddly pensive. It seems like everything is going wrong inside this house.”
She pauses in her stitching and rests it on the table as she turns her gaze to the blond man. There is hesitancy in the way she twiddles the needle between her fingers. “I noticed the friendship between the Prince and the Duke was quite amorous. Some might describe it as queer. Isn’t that unpleasant? Such friendship is harmless when two people are devoted to each other. Amora has been spewing vile words of it to Her Ladyship.”
Before Fandral can give any response, there is a loud crash that comes from somewhere inside the house. The two of them, and almost the entire house staff that have heard the noise, rush to the main drawing-room where the crash seemed to have occurred.
They see that Darcy is already there and she appears to be shocked by whatever is going on inside the room. Fandral prays that nothing horrid has actually transpired and that Darcy is just over-reacting. He strides over to her side, followed by Jane who stands next to him, and they watch the scene unfolding before their eyes.
The Lady Sif is hugging her sister, who is crying inconsolably, in her arms, and a few feet away from them stands the Duke with a red mark burning brightly on his cheek. There are broken pieces of cups and tea-pot, and tea is splattered all over the lush Victorian carpet. Fandral wonders if Lady Sigyn has done that in her despair.
Lady Sif is glaring balefully at Loki. “You are a perniciously foul man! How could you do this to my sister?”
“Do you prefer that I keep my silence and marry her despite how I feel? Sigyn deserves someone who loves her. She is a fine lady and I am certain in due time that there will be plenty men wishing to court her.”
Her Ladyship weeps. “Do not speak like I am not in this room. We are to be married in a year and now you want to call off our engagement because you do not love me?! This is preposterous! Did my cousin entice you into a sinful relationship? Be truthful to me, Loki.”
Something dark and sinister appears on his face. “You wish for my honesty?”
There is a half-mad sneer on his lips and Fandral almost shivers at such a frightening expression. “Very well, if you must know, that infuriating cousin of yours is incapable of seducing me because he is too busy mourning his bloody sad existence! Honestly, I only wanted to marry you for your damn dowry, but I do not want your money anymore. And I do not need Thor in my life.”
Then he steps over the broken china and walks to the foyer where all the house staff are gathered around. They immediately make way for the Duke to pass, but he stops half-way and glances one last time at the two ladies in the room.
“I shall depart today. I appreciate the hospitality during my stay in Downton. Farewell.”
Loki steps into the motor-car and Hogun closes the passenger door, shutting out the callous affluence of Downton Abbey. He massages the side of his face, dulling the pain where Sigyn has slapped him.
“I do not need Thor in my life.”
Liar, he tells himself. He shall always feel the lack of it; the emptiness, the void inside him that no one but Thor could fill.
The past five days had been terrible for Loki, pretending to be whole as if Thor was still there with him. He was like a ghost in Downton, searching forlornly for something that he may never unearth. It was worse when the sun fell over the horizon and the sky was enveloped with twilight, then one by one the stars would peek out to stare down at him as he laid miserably on his bed and grieved his loss. Every part of him ached gravely for Thor… he missed his placid smile, desired his precious summer gaze, yearned for Thor’s fervent kiss on his skin, sought the burning heat of his touch, longed to catch a whiff of the other’s unique, masculine scent and, most of all, loathed Thor’s very existent.
Because of this, Loki became utterly angry and wretchedly bitter. He no longer found joy reading mundane encyclopaedias and dreary books in the libraries as he could not resist reminiscing of the comforting pressure of someone’s head on his lap while his right hand itched to feel velvety locks between his fingers. The garden became a site which plagued Loki, and one which he had assiduously avoided; as whenever his sight glanced upon the cascading flowers of violet orchids, white daisies and pink roses that obstinately refused to die, his hearts quivered painfully as they evoked a forgotten romantic summer. The smell of sweet treats like the freshly baked apple cheesecakes, blueberry meringues and cinnamon bread puddings had made him melancholy and nostalgic and the taste of Merlot and Burgundy wine would forever haunt Loki.
That was when Loki made up his mind to break the engagement and leave Downton.
When he arrives at the train station and gets into the first-class carriage as Hogun deals with his suitcases, Loki becomes even more withdrawn into his own world and loses himself in memories of pealing laughter and delirious blue eyes. The train jerks and Loki gazes resentfully at the moving landscape from his window, watching the long stretch of golden wheat which reminds him so much of Thor’s sun-kissed tresses. The sky darkens, and soon the rain descends from the heavens and taints the world with an insipid and sombre ambience.
Loki ponders if he ever comes across Thor’s mind. Does he miss Loki? Is he still drowning himself into a state of feverish drunkenness? Has he met someone better than Loki and is now devoting his entire heart and soul on that person?
Did Thor ever love him?
His sight becomes a blurry mess. He clenches his hand tightly into a fist, his nails digging painfully into the skin as he fights the grieving sob that threatens to escape. Hogun is a silent companion but he can feel the concerned gaze cast his way. So he continues to mask his sadness and ignores the one lone tear that drops to his lap.
Hours later the rain has ceased, and when the sun sets behind a stretch of green pastures he sees his destination. His heart suddenly becomes lighter and it hits Loki how much he has missed his hometown.
His chauffeur, who is waiting for them in the train station, greets him with a smile. “Welcome back, Your Grace.”
He swears to himself that he shall move on. Loki may never be able to forget his golden Prince, but, perhaps, he could learn to let go of Thor.
“Love is supposed to make one content. If I am in love, I want to be with that person for eternity.”
Indubitably, it is foolish and naïve, though Loki is uncertain if that refers to Thor or himself; perhaps both of them.
He has not seen his brothers since his arrival home, so Loki is mostly occupied with the matters of the estate that have been disregarded in his absence. Nevertheless, it is a welcome distraction for him. Loki had never appreciated the tedious chore until now, so most days find Loki all by himself, looking very much at ease in his own solitude.
Loki dearly loves his brothers but they are no companion for him, even if they were to be present at this time and intent to entertain him. They could never bond with him in the way of amusing conversation and honest playfulness that only Thor could. This also justified the turning away of undesirable company that Loki discovered from others who visited him, such as the priest from the town -who merely wished to offer his condolence over the broken engagement- and Mr. and Mrs. Winchester who resided not far from the estate and had dropped by to ask after his well-being. They did it because they care, but these people are simply not Thor and he wants only Thor’s companionship over all others.
He no longer resents this desire for Thor, but accepts it as he carries on devoting all his powers to amuse himself, mentally and physically. He swore to himself to let go, but it was no more than a week since his return to his hometown that Loki receives an unexpected letter. Hogun hands him a miniature salver with a pile of telegrams and letters that, by the look of them, Loki can already perceive as business affairs. But on top of the stack there is a pale cream paper that looks as if it has aged gracefully. There is the mark of the crown embellished on the seal and Loki’s heart stutters.
And this certainly-not-charming letter proves how foolishly in love Loki is, because all thoughts of walking out on Thor wither, and they are replaced with throbbing hope. However, he also feels severe displeasure at how callously detached the letter is. Thor speaks of himself yet reveals nothing, nor does he express anything in regards to Loki’s broken engagement.
My dearest Loki,
The rain cannot stop falling here, but I feel closer to the sound of thunder and the flashes of lightning that paint the grey sky like an enchanted mural. Mother told me that I was born during a violent storm; perhaps that’s the reason I have such a strange affinity with thunder and lightning.
Wish you were here.
Yours truly, T.
Loki continues to glare at the words, but cannot entirely bring himself to abhor the contents of the letter because Thor softens his aloofness with his statement; wish you were here. It is the only declaration that Thor is still thinking of him. Hogun stands a distance away from him, but stealing a glance at his valet’s features, Loki knows that Hogun is curiously bemused. He had probably thought that receiving a letter from Thor would make Loki happy, but instead his valet witnesses a rather opposite reaction. Loki is utterly relieved that Byleistr and Helblindi are still away attending their family businesses and shall be back in a fortnight, because he has no idea what he would have told them if they had seen the seal.
Which royalty has their brother liaised with recently? Such thoughts would definitely come across their minds.
“Next time there is a letter from him, hand it to me without my brothers around as it is now,” he informs Hogun. Loki cannot comprehend why he considers there is a next time because this may be the first and last letter he’ll ever receive from Thor.
“I’ve already taken note of that, Your Grace. I must take my leave to refill the papers in the letter-room.”
Loki scowls when he hears that, because truthfully he does not have any intention to reply to Thor. However, he reasons that his valet may not be suggesting he writes a response to the Prince, but simply informing Loki of his duty that requires him to take his leave immediately.
He listens to Hogun’s footsteps grow fainter before he releases the letter and watches it drops swiftly to the table. His eyes linger on it, and he decides that yes, it is foolish and naïve; but was Thor naïve for sending the letter, or was Loki foolish for daring to hope?
All the trees have shed their leaves, baring nothing to such a remorseful season as the chillingly crisp of autumn turns freezing as days goes by. The storms have become a common occurrence and showers of lightning and the roaring of thunder constantly remind Loki of the letter that he keeps inside a bronze chest. He hides it in one of the drawers in his private reading-room and sometimes Loki likes to pretend that he keeps a part of Thor there.
Byleistr arrives two days earlier than the date that he had informed Loki. He is a little surprised to see his little brother in the morning, occupying himself with the food on the buffet table. He fills his plate with toast sandwiches, scramble eggs, mini cod pies and fried herrings. Loki rolls his eyes at the lack of vegetables and fruit on his plate as Byleistr had never been fond of them. When his little brother finally reaches the end of the table, he stares quizzically at a platter of creamed apricot tarts.
“Pray tell what had happened to Hymir and who is this new cook? Why on earth does he think to serve us these? Is he aware of our non-existent interest in a sweet course?”
“Hymir still cooks for us and I eat those tarts,” Loki replies easily.
At first, Loki was a bit perturbed with himself when on his third day back in his manor, he suddenly craved the oozing saccharine of desserts that had almost become a major part of his diet during his stay in Downton. He had reminisced of the sweet treats that Volstagg had baked for the Prince. Thor, who was unfailingly thoughtful and charming, had insisted that every sweet course that belonged to him must be shared with Loki. He, of course, concurred to Thor’s demand. He remembered the graceful manner in which Thor devoured his tarts; the cream that marred the edge of his lips and pink tongue that would flick swiftly to lick it away, the small bites that he took, not even a single tasty crumb wasted, and the blissful look that adorned his handsome feature.
Loki pondered if Thor saw Heaven every time he ate something sweet.
He then contemplated if Thor tasted like paradise?
So he told Hymir to bake a lemon meringue pie and Loki almost wanted to weep at the luscious filling and the crispy crust, his tongue ruptured with incessant sweet and sourness. Then it left his mouth with the after-taste of bittersweet that led him to desire a different kind of taste that only Thor could provide.
But he cannot have the real one, so eating desserts becomes the most fitting substitute that Loki intends to indulge on.
Byleistr averts his gaze from the tarts to his brother and Loki feels slight discomfort under those piercing eyes. He snorts. “What has Downton done to you, dear brother?”
If only Byleistr knew of the lovely summer that had ended poignantly. Downton had robbed Loki of everything; and in the end it is he that is left to pick up the pieces as he continues to try and stay afloat, not wanting to drown in the sorrow of unrequited love. Instead of granting Byleistr with a response, Loki ignores him and fills his plate with some food and another plate with five tarts.
“I hope you can provide me a better reason. The statement in your telegram that you are not worthy enough for Lady Sigyn was not satisfactory.”
“What do you wish to hear, Byleistr? That I am not in love with her?”
“What a pity if that is the main reason. Nonetheless, I shan’t reproach you. It is your life though I still wish you would have just married her. She was perfect for you.”
“Too perfect for me. I cannot blame you if Helblindi and yourself are awfully cross with me at the moment. The purpose of the marriage had been to acquire her dowry after all.”
“Ah, regarding our finances, I shall discuss such matter with you when Helblindi returns.”
After they finish with their breakfast, the rest of the morning is spent in the sitting-room as Byleistr updates Loki on the news during his absence, such as their flamboyant Uncle Thrym who is currently courting the widow Duchess of Vanir, Lady Freyja. Her two daughters, Hnoss and Gersemi, eleven and nine respectively, have been forcing him to buy dolls and dresses for them, and because he wishes to be in Lady Freyja’s good graces, he spends a huge amount of money on just the little girls.
Byleistr laughs mirthfully. “They even insisted on ten ponies for their birthday!”
“What will the girls do with ten ponies? Poor Uncle Thrym.”
“Love is blind. That happens when you are so in love that you will do anything.”
Loki contemplates if his love for Thor is blind, that it knows no boundary. For now he shall merely hope for his love to be reciprocated. He excuses himself after that, and as soon as he leaves the room Hogun approaches him with a letter in hand. Loki glances at the familiar crown seal and his heart stumbles anxiously and a strange feeling of excitement takes over. For many days and nights, Loki has secretly wished for Thor to send him another letter; he could be aloof or even be angry with Loki for not replying his first, anything just as long as he wrote something to him.
He takes the letter with him into his private reading-room and makes himself comfortable on the sofa, removes the seal and let his eyes examine every elegant stroke of g and y before he starts reading its contents.
My sweet Loki,
I found a hundred year old Sauternes in the wine cellar. Did you know that it goes well with mascarpone cream tart? The palace seems like a prison to me and only the thought of you make me go through another day without drowning myself in alcohol. I apologize that I sound hopelessly miserable. How pathetic you must think of me now. I blame it entirely on this wretched season,.. everything dies and it makes me feels like I am losing something in my life.
I hope you have not eluded yourself from me. You are too precious. I sorely miss your clever conversation and I wish that I could hear your voice one more time, even if it means that I have to hear you telling me what a bloody dolt I am currently being.
Your dearest one, T.
Loki rereads the letter several times, making sure that he is not missing anything whilst counting and memorizing word for word as he traced Thor’s surprisingly neat handwriting with his eyes. Loki pulls out the bronze chest from the drawer and takes out the first letter that Thor wrote to him almost two weeks ago. As he clutches the two letters in his hand, Loki makes up his mind and brings himself to the letter-room.
Loki and Byleistr are having tea as they discuss their family businesses when Helblindi appears unexpectedly into the room and throws his fist at Loki’s jaw. Enraged at such uncouth behaviour, Loki punches Helblindi in the face and it connects painfully with his nose. Loki feels something break and he winces over his sore fist.
Helblindi groans, he holds his nose with his hand as blood spills onto the carpet. Byleistr immediately wraps his arms tightly around his little brother who is still trying to aim another punch at Loki.
“Helblindi, stop it!”
“How could you be so callously wicked and do that to Sigyn? I could have married her. I could have made her happy.”
“Because you love her? Because you could have her dowry?”
“We are poor!” He screams at Loki.
“Oh for God’s sake, we are not poor!” Byleistr shouts at Helblindi. Then he stares at the blood for a moment and grimaces at the sight.
“I shall explain further, but first we must get the doctor here to fix your nose. There is just too much blood.”
When the doctor has done patching up Helblindi and left the three brothers in the room, Byleistr immediately informs them of their current financial situation which turns out to be good news to the brothers. Byleistr explains that after selling some of their businesses, their assets increased and they could now concentrate on helping their remaining businesses flourish. They will not run out of money for a decade or so, as long as they curb their spending by twenty thousand, the average amount of their spending for the estates per annul.
Loki lets the information sink in as he considers the course of action they should take. “If we must attain to that figure, we cannot maintain the livestock. They should be put up for sale and perhaps we can keep a few hounds and horses for ourselves.”
“Some of the servants must be sacked, dear brother. Especially the old one. Still, you are the master of this house so you have the final word.” Byleistr tells him.
He excuses himself and only Loki stays in the room with Helblindi who looks tired, as if he had been through a hellish week. Loki touches his throbbing jaw and feels the swell that starts to form there. He reminds himself to ask for ice from Hogun later.
“I apologize for attacking you, brother. I was very frustrated when I received your telegram. I wrote to Sigyn, demanding an explanation from her. I had gotten a response from Sif, stating plainly that you will never make her sister happy. So as soon as I arrived home I had rushed to the drawing-room when I heard your voice. I was already in a livid state, thinking that our only source of salvation has slipped away.”
“You told me you could have married her. You accused me of being callously wicked but aren’t you far more iniquitous because despite not being in love with her, you just wanted her for her dowry.”
“Wasn’t that the intention when you proposed to her?”
“Yes, but I was attracted to her. I did not love her though.”
“What causes you to have this change of heart?”
Thor. His name is at the tip of Loki’s tongue but he holds back. He simply utters, “Sigyn, too, would never make me happy.”
My darling Loki,
I miss you so much. I miss the summer that we had together. Remember that time when we had our picnic in the garden and I pulled you so close to me that you accidentally fell onto my lap? I remember the smell of your hair, so very lovely like sweet lavender with a subtle hint of morning mist.
I miss kissing you in the morning (especially when I kissed your rather adorable nose). I miss the feeling of warmth that lingered on my lips and watching the slight flush that adorned your beautiful fair skin. Sometimes you have this strange whiff of winter, did you know that? I guess I shall miss you even more when winter rolls in. I imagine that if we are to live together, we shall live in a house that has a big garden, you would plant roses, daisies, orchids, and I would help you maintain them, (We don’t need our own gardener. I do not trust them to nurture your flowers) and a big fountain where we would watch the fish swim. I shall add some lily pads and the fish will be grateful that we are making their home beautiful too. There shall be a pool so I can swim when the heat is overbearing during summer. You could join me. I would love it if you did. The house shall have libraries because I know that you would die of boredom without a book to read, just like I would die without eating any of my sweet treats.
Perhaps I shall steal Volstagg from Downton and let him work for us. He could fill your stomach with your insatiable taste for pickled seafood and he could bake me cheesecakes and tarts.
I truly and utterly miss you.
With love, T.
I can hardly bear it. I feel so ill, so tired and cold and even the sight of my favourite sweet treats induces queasiness. I’ve been losing my appetite since I began to suffer from this damn fever. I hate being me at the moment. I just wish that I could be something else, perhaps a bird and fly far, far away from here. I shall fly to you and you’ll chase away this atrocious ailment and bring me back to health.
Mother tells me that I should stop drinking. I think she is right. I want to be better and I want to do this for you so that the next time you see me, you shan’t see the drunkard oaf that you knew. Balder speaks of someone who consumed too much alcohol that his liver stops functioning thus, the alcohol enters his bloodstream and it turns poisonous. He died. I believed Balder’s story, and I do not wish to die (killed by my own doing when I can refrain it from happening to myself) because I know it will bring grief to you. I am sorry for this dreadful account for my part. This sickness makes me feel rather miserable.
It must be painful for you and your brothers to sack some of the old servants especially those that had served you well. You have a good judgement, Loki. I have faith in you that with every decision you make, it comes with a good reason.
Do not be me. Stay well and healthy.
My beautiful Loki,
I dreamt of you. You were smiling sincerely and laughing blithely and the glaring sun hid behind you and created some kind of an ethereal radiance all around you. This image of you is utterly divine. I woke up with the desire of wanting to see your captivating eyes and listen to your gentle voice (I miss you reading a bed time story to me). This distance between us sometimes brings an ache to my heart.
Send my regards to Hogun.
Yours and only yours, T.
The first month of winter arrives. Everybody prefers to stay in and avoid the chilling frost. No visitors drop in on them and neither do the three brothers go out to meet others. When there are matters that are necessary for the Duke or any of the brothers’ presence, they normally send in their lawyer to settle the issue for them.
Except today Loki has to go out to town because Hogun informs him that apparently Egil, one of their stock suppliers, has been quite displeased with the payment and insisted that the Duke should meet him and settle the deal. Hogun adds on that there would be no pickled herrings for Loki as the goods would not be released should he not drop by to settle the matter.
“Is it really necessary for this bastard to see me? You could send one of our male staff who rarely goes to town and pretend he is me.”
“The employees that rarely went to town were the old staff that have left.”
Loki cringes, still sore at the awkward affair when he had to sack half of the house staff which consisted of the elderly servants. Fortunately, they had seemed to be aware of the issue and instead of Loki deciding for them, they had offered to resign. Loki respected their decision and had been very much obliged with their service that he had granted them a retirement fund. Helblindi refuted at first, but after an argument with Byleistr and being assured that their finances would not be affected, his hot-headed little brother had finally consented.
He heaves a sigh and hopes that he does not have to stay in town longer. He loves winter; truly, it is his most favourite season whilst summer comes second in the list. Winter always evokes a feeling of peace and calmness and their beauty is undeniably the purest and most entrancing. But sometimes the coldness is so severe that Loki desires nothing but to be wrapped in thick wool blanket, a cup of hot chocolate in his hands and to sit next to the fireplace. He does that sometimes and Byleistr and Helblindi will join him and the three brothers will muse over their childhood. When their conversation strays to their summer youth, Loki will be lost in reverie of Thor. His golden Prince is the epitome of every divine summer so thus memories of Loki’s sunny youth have long been obscured.
Hogun readies his winter coat and gloves and the motor-car is already waiting for them outside. After the ten minutes trip to the town, with the snowy scenery that accompanies his journey, they finally reach the shop. He does not recognize the place and that is because it is never his duty to acquire the supply as he simply purchases them through mail and they will come to the manor with the goods.
Loki walks into the shop and is suddenly quite perplexed when he finds himself to be in a rather cosy-looking restaurant. The wallpaper of yellow flowers and the delicate chandeliers create an ambience of inconspicuous delicateness and elegance. There are about ten tables around the place. A lone female server stands at the corner of the room, preparing silverwares and seems to not be aware of Loki’s presence at all. There is no one else in there except them until he feels a presence right behind him. A whiff of something from a distant memory, of wild cherry and sweet blossoms, and this causes his chest to swell. Only one person has this distinctive scent. Loki turns around and looks right into deep blue eyes.
“Hullo, Loki. Did you miss me?”
Momentarily, Loki lost the ability to be coherent because he simply stares at the other man as his heart heave with so many emotions. “Thor,” he finally utters the name that he has not spoken for almost three months.
Thor plants a kiss on the side of his face and Loki’s cheeks blooms into redness as heat emerges in the pit of his stomach.
Thor is here with him. In this charming little restaurant with a server—
Loki freezes and glances at the corner of the room to see no one there anymore.
“Roskva will serve us in a moment. She went to the kitchen.”
Loki enquires him, “Do you know her?”
“Roskva’s brother, Tjalfi, is my personal groom in the palace. He comes here with me. Egil is their father who is also the owner of this new quaint restaurant. I found out from Tjalfi that his father is a supplier to a Duke who has an odd craving for pickled seafood. By Jove, it is you! I started planning and wrote a letter to Hogun so that he could aid me in setting up this lovely luncheon for us.”
The sound of an open door makes them both turn their head to the noise and they watch as Hogun steps in. Loki notices Hogun changes the sign to ‘Closed’ in the glass window nearby before he turns to look at them. He looks stoic as always but they can see the slight quirk on his lips.
“Your Highness,” he bows to Thor.
“Ah, Hogun! My good lad! I owe you my gratitude.”
Hogun takes Loki and Thor’s winter coats, shoving their gloves into the pockets, and hangs them at the coat stand.
“I’ll be in the kitchen if His Highness and His Grace require my presence.”
When Hogun disappears into the back of the restaurant, Thor turns back his attention to Loki and grins brightly, “You have not answer my question yet. Did you miss me? Never once did you express it clearly in your letter, Loki. I am wondering if you were too occupied that you barely thought of me. But that is impossible or else I would not have received a single response from you.”
“Of course I missed you, you dolt! Did I not express it in my three to five page letter accounting my day-to-day muse, even when I did not blatantly state it? Unlike you, who sent a single paged letter, and the most that you have written to me was three hundred and twenty words!”
Loki is a little taken aback by himself when he accidentally reveals his deed that is meant to be kept a secret as long as he lives. All letters from Thor; he ingrained every word into his head, kept them close to his heart so that he could recite them completely, could remember the curl and stroke of Thor’s handwriting so fastidiously that he could easily picture them, could tell you how many words Thor had written in each letter so he could tally the word count for all the letters; eight hundred and fifty-eight words. He glowers at Thor as if daring the other man to tease him.
Instead, he receives quite the opposite reaction when Thor merely exclaims, “Three hundred and twenty words? Have I written that little? I am so very sorry. I swear that after today I will write to you more than that which you have written to me. And I apologize that I accused you of not missing me at all. I’m being silly as always. I just want to hear you say it to me plainly that you missed me.” He smiles charmingly at Loki. Just like that, Loki is quick to forgive him, but that is after all part of Thor’s charm and Loki’s relentless love for him.
Roskva steps out from the kitchen and it is their cue for them to take their seat.
He informs Loki that Odin is expecting his presence in the palace before nightfall. It is unfortunate that winter also means that it has the shortest days so their luncheon could only last an hour. The train ride back will take another two hours and by then twilight takes over and the freezing temperature will drop to subzero.
Loki listens attentively to everything that Thor speaks of as he observes the absence of intoxication that used to be part of Thor. Even now he takes plain warm water with his curried lobster. Has he stopped drinking for good? As if reading his mind, Thor immediately tells Loki that he has been sober for a month. “I only take a glass of wine once a day. I must go through withdrawal slowly. Mother helps me a lot and I do not wish to disappoint her. I felt bad that all this time I’ve been thinking that Balder has taken Mother away from me. But it was actually me who had been rejecting them as I had only desired to seek solace in alcohol. I stopped doing that and I am mending my relationship with them.”
“I’m proud of you.”
“I’m doing this for you too. You already know that. I detest myself every time I see that you’re unhappy for my misery. If I did not meet you in Downton, I guess I would have drunk myself to death. I told Mother about you. She would love to meet you one day. And Balder...” Thor chuckles before he continues, “Balder wishes that you were a maiden so that I could marry you, considering that you inspire me to be better.”
Loki blushes. He is quite relieved that he has not taken a bite on his fillet salmon or he might choke on his food. He refrains himself from saying anything as he concentrates in cutting his salmon and dipping the slice into the Ravigotte sauce.
“Perhaps you could dress up as a damsel when you meet—”
Loki scowls as he flicks the white sauce at Thor’s face. The Prince laughs merrily despite receiving another spatter of sauce on him.
“The winter here is pretty dreadful!” Thor rubs both his hands, shivering at the coldness when they step out from the restaurant. There is no one that they can see wandering around the town. Loki thinks of warm hot chocolate and the fireplace back in the manor, but when his eyes lands on Thor, he immediately discards such thoughts because warmth means nothing if he cannot be with Thor long enough. He is not pleased that their time together is coming to an end and Loki is already starting to miss him even though Thor is right in front of him.
“Let’s walk to the train station.”
“I do not think that is wise, Thor. We need to catch up with the train or we’ll miss it,” Tjalfi tells him when he approaches them. Loki wonders if every servant in the palace refers to Thor by name or if he is just close to the Prince. He squashes the sudden feeling of envy when he thinks of the constant companionship between Thor and Tjalfi.
“You and Hogun ride the motor-car to the train station. Loki and I shall meet you there. It’s not that far. I simply want to spend more time with Loki before I leave.”
Loki instantly warms at his words, and when the motor-car heads off to the station he feels the other’s hand reach for his. The fluttering in his stomach intensifies when Thor threads their fingers together and he pulls Loki close to him as they trudge through the snow. It has started snowing slightly but both of them walk unhurriedly in silence and relish each other’s company. Loki hopes this shall not be their last time together and that Thor will visit him again in future. That time, Loki will definitely bring Thor to the manor and introduces him to Byleistr and Helblindi. He is certain that Byleistr will be fond of Thor but he is unsure if Helblindi could easily accept Thor’s unconventional manner.
“If you come to visit here again, I would like you to have dinner with my brothers and stay for the night. You must meet them, Thor. I shall tell my Head Cook, Hymir, who is as good as Volstagg, to prepare delicious sweet treats for you. Oh, I would definitely invite Uncle Thrym.”
“I would be delighted! Perhaps in the mid-spring, if you don’t mind. I still have obligations before Father will release me from my duty.”
“That will give me ample time to prepare. Besides, I still need to tell my brothers regarding you.”
“Make sure to mention only the good stuff.”
They smile at each other, and after a while Thor lets go of his hand and jogs further ahead of him before he stops, grabs a fistful of snow from the ground and hurls it swiftly at Loki.
He yelps when it hits him right at his face. “Thor, you bastard!”
Thor sniggers impishly but flees when Loki runs after him with a snowball in hand.
They manage to arrive at the train station on time. Loki sees the motor-car nearby with Hogun in the driver’s seat as he waits for him. Tjalfi is standing in front of the way in to the first-class carriage. The signalman blows his whistle and shouts, “Departing in five minutes!”
There are a few people in the station and all of them rushes into the second and third-class carriages. Thor gives a sign to Tjalfi to get in the carriage first. The platform is immediately vacant except for the two of them. Suddenly their separation seems so heartfelt that he could feel the forlornness threatening to crush him. Loki does not want their parting to be in a sad manner. The memory of their separation in Downton comes back to haunt him and his heart grips painfully.
He wants Thor to know of his incandescent infatuation with him before he leaves. He wants Thor to be devoted ardently to him, to forever adore him, to genuinely love him as more than simply a friend.
Thor interrupts his train of thought, “My dear, do not look so bereft at my departure. It pains me to leave you like this, just like it was heartbreaking for me when I left you in Downton.”
“You always express your adulation for me but to what extent? How I feel for you, Thor... I have a name for it. But do you feel the same as I do? Will you enlighten me to how exactly you feel for me?”
A laughter that sounds forced but with a touch of sorrow escapes Thor. “When you were Sigyn’s fiancé, it troubled me that I was so dearly attached to you. The day that I left, I have never felt so conflicted in my life because I knew that I had to leave you. You were never mine to begin with and you would have been married to Sigyn soon. Then I heard from Father of what had happened with the engagement.”
Thor stares right into his eyes, leaning closer to him as his voice drops, the tone gentle and loving. “Is it not obvious to you, Loki? The words that I imply in my letters and the risk I take to see you today, aren’t these apparent enough how I feel for you? I am completely and utterly in love with you.”
His heart stutters with emotion, of sheer exhilaration that he has never felt before. He falls for Thor again, deep like the ocean and then feels himself rises to high Heaven as he takes in the undeniable love and passion in Thor’s eyes.
The whistle of the train stirs Loki back to reality and realises that Thor has to leave but he is still standing there, waiting for a response from Loki. The thick white smoke emits from the chimney of the train and fills the place, blanketing them in layers of mist and whiteness. They cannot see anything and could only distinguish each other’s silhouette and Loki immediately knows what he must do before it is too late. Loki reaches out for him, draws Thor’s face to his and presses their lips together.
For a moment, they stay that way; Thor’s lips feel so absolutely and genuinely precious on his. And when he pulls away, the smoke has slowly mitigated and they can both finally see each other’s face. There is an endearing blush over Thor’s handsome face with a beautiful grin adorning his lips.
“I love you too. Now go before you miss the train.”
Thor straight away breaks into laughter and runs into the carriage as soon as the train starts to move. He remains in the doorway of the carriage, grinning like an idiot as he waves ecstatically at Loki. “I’ll come back! I promise!” He shouts.
Loki watches him go. Despite the coldness that starts to seep into his bones, he stands there for many minutes; his gaze follows the train that is taking his love away from him. He looks on until the train slowly disappears from his sight.
The kissing in the train station obscure in white smoke was shamelessly stolen from a movie that I adored, Miss Potter.
Anyway, thank you so much to everyone who has been reading and leaving comments and kudos. I’m starting to wonder if I will ever end this story. I would like to thank my wonderful beta, Silverlynxcat for being patient with me and making this story impeccably flawless. I love you, sweetie. Your lovely notes and flailing throughout this story never fail to amuse me. Oh yes, Thunder+Lightning = Thor/Loki <3
I like to thank my friend, serluvia for feeding me with Thor/Loki doujins and listened to my whining when I went apeshit that one time. And I know you have been waiting to read this chapter like forever so thank you for your patience too.