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Res Judicata

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It's fortunate Odin tells him when they're alone in the throne room. When Thor learns the truth his legs give out beneath him and he falls to his knees.

"Loki is alive," he echoes, and the words grate roughly in his throat. Relief stings his eyes, and his blood rushes so loudly in his ears that all other sounds are eclipsed.

Loki is alive. For a moment nothing else comes close to mattering.

But Odin's expression doesn't suit the elation flooding Thor's chest. There's no answering smile on his face. There's only tired heartbreak (an expression with which Thor has grown familiar since he started paying attention), and Thor's relief freezes to fear in his chest.

"What is it?"

"My son," Odin says. He strides forward to clasp Thor's shoulder, though he doesn't urge Thor to his feet. Odin's strong voice quavers almost imperceptibly. "I'm afraid there is more."

"Tell me," Thor whispers.

- — - — - — - — -

He thinks he's prepared.

The danger is a trifling concern. The dark energy Odin summons to send him to Midgard is likewise beneath Thor's notice. They are both simply necessary. He must reach Earth if he is to reclaim his fallen brother.

Nothing will stand in his way.

The sight of Loki, the feel of him alive in Thor's hands as they hurtle through the storm, these sensations aren't so potent as to throw Thor off his guard. He knows convincing Loki to come home will be no simple task. He knows just as surely (whatever naïve hopes may sing in the secret recesses of his mind) that they will come to violence before Loki agrees.

He thinks himself prepared for all these things, even for the bitterness Loki will inevitably have harbored since his fall.

But Loki isn't simply bitter. Loki doesn't just refuse him or fight him.

Loki renounces him. He denies Thor as his brother.

"Your father," he says, and fresh loss churns in Thor's gut. Loki's words are spoken quietly, but they cut at Thor more fiercely than any physical wound Loki could possibly inflict.

Thor considers pleading from his knees. He wonders if it would be enough. Loki never responds to Thor's anger—always too superior, too smug in his the attitude that he's above anything so petty as Thor's rage—but perhaps if Thor appealed to his pride.

But there's animal desperation in Loki's eyes, despite the tight control in his voice. Thor knows even pride won't reach Loki now.

"Brother," Thor whispers, standing too close, clinging to Loki with unforgiving hands. "What has happened to you?"

Loki's eyes flash cold and he says, "It doesn't matter."

- — - — - — - — -

He begs Loki to come home. Loki unleashes his army instead.

- — - — - — - — -

In the aftermath, Thor worries that the Humans will try to keep Loki. Humans have such stubborn notions when it comes to justice and their right to mete it out. Loki has done unmeasured damage to their world, so much so that even Thor can understand their desire to punish him themselves.

But Loki is of Asgard. His greatest crimes are answerable only there.

There's also a quiet but stubborn voice in Thor's head; a possessive voice that insists quietly and constantly that Loki belongs to him. Rationally, Thor knows this voice is not to be trusted. But in his heart, he knows no stronger truth.

If S.H.I.E.L.D. desires to keep and punish Loki themselves, Thor doesn't know what he'll do. Violence may be the only answer then, though he has no wish to harm people he has come to consider allies.

But Director Fury is a man of practicality and of honor. Which of these traits makes him choose to hand both Tesseract and Trickster over, Thor doesn't know and does not ask.

As Thor collects his brother, he wishes they could exchange words. The metal device gags not only Loki's voice but also his access to his magics, and while Thor recognizes the necessity, he also despises the device for the monstrosity it is. They've no right to silence Loki's silver tongue this way.

No right, but need enough and then some. Thor leaves his protests unvoiced as he leads Loki, gagged and manacled, to the spot from which they will depart.

Loki watches him with eyes that seem to say, 'I see you, Brother. I see the worst of you. You cannot fool me.'

- — - — - — - — -

Asgardian justice moves slowly.

What rush is there, after all, to a people the rest of the universe would call immortal? Loki is locked away, not in a tower but in a dungeon at the very heart of the city. The walls, the ceiling, the floor are all deep-set stone and bespelled metalwork. Enchanters have sealed this room against escape, and Odin's strongest sorcerers have crafted wards so potent that even the hundred surrounding sentries cannot cross them.

Only Thor and Odin can move in and out of the room in which Loki awaits Asgard's justice. Even Frigga has not been permitted entrance.

"It would only break her heart," Odin has insisted time and again. "I will not do that to her."

Thor thinks it even more cruel to keep her away, but it's not his place to question the Allfather. He consoles himself with the knowledge that at least he himself is not barred from his brother's presence.

It is still many months before he musters the will to enter Loki's cell.

S.H.I.E.L.D.'s wretched device is gone, as are the crude metal manacles Loki wore on returning to Asgard. His wrists are bound instead with the shimmering gold of thread, a material crafted from magic and raw power, unbreakable, or so say the sorcerers who crafted it.

Loki's mouth twists into a cruel smile when he sees Thor. The door closes and seals, and Thor watches his brother with wary eyes.

It doesn't matter how many times Loki denies him. They will always be brothers. The knowledge of Loki's true parentage will not change the deeper truth Thor knows with a soul-sick certainty. They are family. Loki belongs to Thor as he always has. Blood changes nothing, whether it's the blood in their veins or the blood spilled between them on the field of battle.

"I was beginning to think you'd found some way back to Earth." Loki rises from the settee on which he was seated when Thor entered. "Or that you had decided to wash your hands of me after all. Welcome, Thor. Can I offer you a drink?"

There's unmasked mockery in Loki's voice. He maneuvers like a serpent through the opulent arrangement of furniture that constitutes his confinement. Several chairs with tall backs stand scattered throughout the room, a cruel joke, as who besides Loki will use them. A canopied bed occupies one corner; an enormous fire the other, contained within the confines of a tall stone hearth. A long table stretches across one wall, covered in an assortment of fruits and meats, vessels and pitchers with a variety of drinks.

Thor sees Odin's handiwork in the extravagance of this space. He wonders if the luxury stems from a desire to keep Loki comfortable until his sentence is decided, or if there's a crueler purpose to this design. Loki would chafe in any prison cell, but the false pretension of his surroundings now, the princely accoutrements; Thor can only imagine how they must grate at Loki.

"I'm not thirsty," Thor says, as Loki pours wine from a narrow pitcher into two goblets. The glowing strands binding his wrists lengthen momentarily, enough to allow the necessary movements.

"Nonsense. You're always thirsty." Loki approaches him with a predator's smooth grace and offers one of the goblets.

Thor eyes the goblet and does not accept. Loki shrugs and sets the wine aside, on one of a dozen small tables interspersed amid the too many chairs. He raises his own glass and tilts it to his lips, taking a long drink. Thor watches his brother's throat move as he swallows a generous portion of the wine.

"Why are you here?" Loki asks, setting the half-empty goblet beside Thor's. He watches Thor with unmasked impatience and makes no pretense at being happy to see him.

Thor doesn't immediately answer, because he has no answer to give. He hadn't considered why it was so important that he come to see Loki. He's simply known, since returning to Asgard, that he must. That it was only a matter of time. Loki is his (even though he's not), and it never occurred to Thor that he could stay away.

"I don't know," he admits finally. What harm can there be in admitting the truth?

"Of course not." Loki snorts and narrows his eyes. "You never were one for introspection." He approaches Thor with silent steps, menace in his expression, his movements, the tight line of his posture. Thor holds his ground, his own eyes slitting, and his hands itch to curl into fists. Loki wouldn't dare attack him here—perhaps couldn't attack him even if he did dare—yet Thor's fingers yearn for Mjölnir. His hammer is in his chambers, instead of at his side, and Thor wonders almost idly if even Mjölnir would be able to penetrate these walls and wards if he summoned her.

"Do you know what they intend to do to me?" Loki murmurs, and suddenly he's so close Thor can feel warm breath on his face.

"No," Thor admits. Justice is too abstract a concept. What can possibly constitute justice in the face of crimes like Loki's? But there's something stark and certain in Loki's eyes now. There's something like knowledge behind his gaze, and Thor realizes, "But you do."

"I have an idea."

"Tell me," Thor growls. He moves forward with the words, propelled by the unexpected strength of his need to know. Loki steps back, genuinely startled (or so it seems), but Thor follows. He grabs Loki by the arms and gives him a single hard shake. "Tell me what they will do."

The surprise vanishes quickly from Loki's face, replaced by a dark sneer as he juts his chin defiantly and stares Thor down.

"Oh no," he says. "I wouldn't want to spoil the surprise. You'll have to work it out for yourself."

Thor growls again, but this time the sound comes out a wordless rumble. Loki arches his eyebrows, but his smile doesn't falter. Thor wants to shake him again. He wants to make Loki see reason, make him repent, make him explain. He wants to shove Loki against the most unyielding surface this prison has to offer and—

And what?

Thor releases Loki so abruptly they both stumble back, and for the second time he catches a flash of surprise in Loki's eyes.

"I think you should leave," Loki says, before Thor has managed to reclaim his equilibrium. "I very much doubt we have anything useful to say to one another."

"Loki, please—"

"Don't." The word comes low and vicious. "Don't," Loki says more quietly, turning his back. "I don't want you here."

Thor doesn't want to go. But he takes his brother at his word, and leaves without a goodbye.

- — - — - — - — -

He visits Loki again a week later. His reception is no warmer the second time.

- — - — - — - — -

He waits a month before his third visit. He can tell as soon as he steps into the room that Loki still isn't happy to see him.

But Loki doesn't immediately order him to leave, and Thor considers that a victory, if a small one.

"How go the Allfather's deliberations?" Loki asks, circling Thor with cautious steps.

"I don't know," Thor confesses. "Father tells me nothing." Thor has asked him more than once. After his first visit to Loki, and again after his second, Thor approached his father and asked what he intended to do. Odin offered no answers, though Thor could see terrible resolve in his eyes. He is afraid for Loki, and the fear sits like a stone in his gut, cold and unpleasant.

"He is wise not to," Loki sneers. "You have a history of ignoring his commands."

"Not anymore," Thor replies instantly, defensively. Loki's sneer widens to a bright smirk, and Thor flushes as though he's done something to be embarrassed about. Loki laughs and turns toward the banquet-wide table along the far wall. His back is straight, his posture proud as he reaches for one of many silver pitchers.

"Loki, please," Thor says. He crosses the room in quick strides, looming behind his brother and struggling to keep his hands at his sides. He's standing too near, but Loki doesn't acknowledge him. "Loki," Thor says. "Tell me what you know. Tell me what Father intends."

"No."

Thor is shaking now, with frustration and with the kind of anxious energy that comes from wanting to fight but having no clear target. He can't fight Loki. Not here. Not like this. But he itches to put his hands on his brother and settle the score between them, the ragged history of all the ways they've hurt each other. There's violence beneath his skin, and he wants to touch Loki so badly that his very soul burns with it.

"This is the third time you've come to see me." Loki's voice is a calculated calm that says he either hasn't noticed Thor's reaction or he simply doesn't care. "Three visits, and you still haven't told me why you're here."

The anxious energy is still rushing through Thor's body, but his voice comes out steady when he says, "Perhaps I don't need a reason. Perhaps I simply needed to see you."

Loki laughs, and it's a ragged sound, graveled and bitter.

"You really don't know your own mind," Loki murmurs. "Perhaps even your own heart."

"I don't understand."

Then Loki turns his back to the table. He braces one hand on polished wood, and raises his eyes to Thor's. Thor should back away. If he was standing too close before, this is unbearable. Loki's face overwhelms his vision, and Thor breathes a quick, nearly silent gasp.

"Introspection, Brother," Loki says, and the second word is a cruel hiss. "You never think. You simply act." Thor is too close to see Loki raise his hand, but he feels Loki's fingers against his face. Loki's touch ghosts like a taunt along his jaw, his cheek, his temple. And then traces Thor's lips in a mockery of a caress. Thor grabs his brother's wrist so hard Loki flinches, but it puts a stop to the confusing sensations. The golden magic twining around Loki's wrists pulses warm beneath Thor's grasp.

"You really don't know." Loki's eyes widen fractionally.

Why is Thor suddenly breathing so hard? Why can't he catch his breath?

"What is this game, Loki?"

"It's not a game. I merely hoped to make a point. Yet here you are, as stupid as ever. Too oblivious to realize what you want, no matter how transparently you may want it."

"Talk sense, Loki." Thor tightens his grip on Loki's wrist and draws a grunt of pain from his brother's throat.

"I am talking sense. You're just not listening." Loki leans closer, so close his face loses focus in Thor's vision and his breath ghosts over Thor's tightly thinned lips. "You want to hurt me, but it's not all you want. Have the decency to admit that much, at least."

"I don't want to hurt you," Thor whispers.

Loki's smile is slow and sleek when he says, "Keep telling yourself that. Perhaps one day you will believe it."

- — - — - — - — -

Thor dreams of Loki that night. To be fair, he dreams of Loki almost every night. But this dream is different.

In this dream when Loki laughs at him, Thor holds him down with the full weight of his body. He covers Loki's mouth with his palm and tries to force the laughter right back down his brother's throat. But of course it doesn't work. Loki only laughs harder, shivering beneath Thor's weight. Thor feels helpless and terrified, lost on the brink of some looming precipice that he can't put into words.

He wakes overheated in his bed, breathing hard and wound so tightly it's all he can do not to summon Mjölnir to his hand.

"Loki," he gasps, head pounding and heart racing and desperate confusion churning in his head.

- — - — - — - — -

On Thor's fourth visit, Loki won't stop smiling his maddening, guarded, cryptic smile. The one Thor's never been able to see through. The one that tells him absolutely nothing.

It doesn't stop him from returning a fifth time. And then a sixth. And then he stops counting, because what's the point when he knows he'll always come back?

- — - — - — - — -

A year into Loki's imprisonment, Thor asks Odin what's taking so long. A year is practically nothing in the scope of the Asgardian lifespan, but Thor can't bear not knowing what's going to happen to Loki. The uncertainty is driving him slowly mad, all the worse for Loki's apparent disinterest.

"It is not my decision alone," Odin informs him tiredly.

"You are the Allfather."

"Yes. And there are many for whom I am responsible." Thor thinks there might be tears in his father's eye, but that could be simply the glitter of the throne room. Odin's voice is a deep, commanding calm when he continues, "Ours is not the only family, nor the only world, which Loki has wronged. And Asgard is not the only realm that would be in danger if I made the wrong decision. Or if I gave in to sentiment and passed too lenient a sentence."

"Then what shall happen to him?"

"That decision is not yet final."

Thor storms from the throne room in a petulant rage, and he doesn't dare enter Loki's prison that night.

- — - — - — - — -

"He still won't tell you," Loki observes when Thor has finally cooled down enough for another visit. "Is he pretending the decision is a difficult one? I assure you, he has already decided. Perhaps he's balking at carrying out so harsh a sentence on even a false son."

"You taunt me deliberately." Thor glares, and the weight of frustration is heavy behind his ribs.

Loki shrugs and turns aside, but Thor grabs him by the arm and yanks; he jerks Loki around so that he has no choice but to meet Thor's eyes. Loki glances down at Thor's hand, the grasping heat of Thor's fingers around his bicep. Then he raises his eyes again, and there's smirking victory on his face.

Thor wants to wipe that smirk away. Or taste it. The urge rushes unexpectedly through him, potent and unfamiliar. He doesn't want to kiss Loki. Kisses are warmth and romance. Even in the wild throes of ecstasy, a kiss is something to be shared, to enjoy.

But he can't think of a better word for what he wants to do. He can't decide what it means, the way he wants to put his mouth on Loki now, but there's nothing of warmth or romance in it.

"Nearly there, aren't you." Loki's smirk widens to a vicious grin. "Go ahead, then. Go on. Do it, if you're man enough. I'm waiting." But Thor hesitates, and a look of mocking disappointment settles across Loki's features. "No? Pity. And here I thought, just maybe, you had it in you. But you'll never change. Pathetic."

The words draw rage to the surface of Thor's skin, and the color bleeds from his vision as sudden resolve clutches at his heart. His fingers tighten on Loki's arm, and he reaches with his other hand, fisting his fingers in Loki's hair and yanking Loki's head back roughly as he drags his brother bodily against him.

Loki's mouth is resistant beneath Thor's, his body all shoving angles and violent retort. But Thor is physically stronger, and Loki can't put up a true fight, not without his magic; not with his wrists bound by warmly pulsing threads that confine some movements but not others. These movements, for example. What's passing between them now is more a fight than an embrace, and there's heat against Thor's chest where the threads have knotted Loki's wrists tightly together. Loki shoves at him with his bound hands, palms flat against Thor's chest.

Thor tightens his fingers in Loki's hair, and Loki gives a pained gasp, lips parting on the sound and not closing quickly enough to prevent Thor's tongue slipping past. Loki bites him, but Thor only retreats enough to bite meaningfully at Loki's lower lip, firm warning, and then reclaims his prize as vigorously as before.

Loki stops struggling against him. He allows Thor his victory, allows the deep, possessive exploration of Thor's tongue.

This is a kiss, Thor realizes. But it's like no kiss he's ever craved before, and certainly like no kiss he's ever bestowed or taken.

Reason returns to him in a violent rush, and Thor jolts back so suddenly Loki falls to the floor. Shame floods his chest, and horror at his own actions. Loki's lower lip is split, and Thor realizes that he tastes the faint shadow of blood on his tongue even now. Loki's mouth is swollen, lips dark against the paleness of his skin. He's breathing hard, as is Thor, and Thor stumbles back another step.

"So you had it in you after all." Loki's voice is the trickling murmur of a very smug stream.

Thor retreats, but he can still hear Loki's laughter following him after the prison door has closed.

- — - — - — - — -

He stays away for seven weeks. In that time, his guilt abates little and his shame only compounds. This is what Loki meant, then, about the things Thor wants. How could he not have known this about himself? How could he have been so blind to his own desires?

How could he have looked at Loki so many times, dreamed of Loki so many times, and not seen to the core of his obsession?

He finds no answers in silence, and so after seven weeks he returns. He already knows Loki will be waiting for him.

- — - — - — - — -

"Ask me how long I've known," Loki says when Thor warily accepts the wine he offers.

Loki's lip has healed. His bindings still glow with a glinting, shifting heat. Thor can't make himself meet Loki's eyes. He's silent as he retreats with his goblet and settles on the low settee nearest the hearth.

"Ah," Loki says dryly, pouring a goblet of wine for himself. "You don't intend to participate in this conversation. Very well, I can fill in the gaps easily enough. How's this?: 'Known what, Loki? You must explain, for I am far too stupid to reach my own rational conclusions.'"

Thor's jaw clenches, but he doesn't rise to the bait. He stares into the fire instead, as Loki navigates a circuitous path through the room and finally comes to a stop scant feet away.

"Ask me how long I've known all the deviant things you want to do to me."

"Don't," Thor breathes, fingers clenching around the stem of the goblet. He doesn't take a sip.

Loki laughs a tight, mirthless laugh and folds onto the settee beside Thor. Thor tries to keep staring into the fire, but he can't. Not with Loki so close. His eyes are drawn to his brother, and once he's looking at Loki, he can't bring himself to look anywhere else.

"What is that lovely word the Midgardians use?" Loki asks, taking an idle sip of wine. "Oh yes, I remember." He sets the goblet aside on a small table and meets Thor's eyes with malicious mirth. "You want to fuck me."

Thor shakes his head, but of course there's no point in denial. Loki knows. And Thor can't go back and make himself forget the unwanted revelation. He may be blind, but he's never been willfully so.

"The answer, Brother, to the question you refuse to ask is: eons. I've known your secret for as long as it was there to know, and believe me, you've guarded it long and well. Even from yourself, it seems. What beautiful irony that you never realized."

"Stop it," Thor whispers. "Please."

"Perhaps it's fortunate Odin kept us unaware of my true lineage," Loki continues, unmoved by the desperate plea in Thor's voice. "I suspect if you had known we weren't brothers, you would have mounted me centuries ago."

There are too many emotions in Thor's chest, all tangled and violent and raw. He can't contain them, can't breathe through them, and a shattered noise escapes his throat. Raw and raging, an animal growl of frustration as he hurls his goblet at the burning hearth. The goblet shatters, and the wine ignites, a moment's surging brightness before the fire returns to its previous level.

Loki is still watching him. Thor can't breathe.

Then Loki moves. He shifts onto his knees and edges so close Thor can feel his brother's heat along his side.

Loki's lips brush Thor's ear as he whispers, "I'm not your brother. There's no reason you can't take what you want."

Thor flinches, and his hands tighten into fists on his thighs.

"You would fight me," he says. Loki fought him last time, and that was just a kiss. The thought sends guilty heat rushing through Thor's body. He can't pretend Loki's resistance didn't excite some deep, instinctive part of him. He can't hope to hide the truth (any truth) from his brother.

But Loki's fingers curl beneath Thor's chin, and he turns Thor's head with a gentle nudge. Thor could resist. He should resist. But he lets Loki turn his face until their eyes lock together with an unbreakable intensity.

"Of course I'll fight you," Loki says. "But that's what you want. You needn't pretend otherwise."

"I don't want to hurt you." He barely breathes the words.

Loki's eyes narrow, but his considering expression doesn't falter.

"You're a terrible liar," Loki says.

Thor is. He's a terrible liar. He can't even convince himself the words are true, because aren't they always hurting each other? That's the pattern. That's what they do. They fight. They struggle. They hurt each other. If Thor wants his brother, how can he want him in any way but exactly the way they are?

Then Loki kisses him, and it's very nearly tender. It's also fleetingly brief, and then Loki's hand falls away and there's a different expression on his face. Something cryptic and impenetrable in the firelight from the hearth.

"You know I'll put up a fight," Loki says. "Why should that stop you from taking what you want?" Thor shakes his head. Whatever logic Loki is employing, Thor can't follow it, but the reasoning is seeping into his head anyway. It's tinting his thoughts, darkening his wants from idle fantasy to something just beyond reach. Loki's voice shivers beneath Thor's skin.

And he can't. He can't sit here and not touch. Loki is too close, and Thor is too aware of him, of all the things he wants to do to him. He reaches for Loki thoughtlessly, and when Loki tries to pull away, Thor only grabs harder.

Loki's clothing tears with unsurprising ease beneath Thor's strong hands. He tries to pin Loki to the settee, but his brother's struggles are too frantic and they land on the floor instead, smooth stone in the space before the fire. The fire's heat saturates Thor's skin, and he manages to pin Loki on his back. The gold restraints have pulled tight with Loki's struggles, and Thor holds Loki's wrists against the floor above his head. Loki bucks and arches beneath him, but he can't stop Thor slipping one knee between his thighs, then the other.

Thor uses his free hand to undo the clasps of his own leggings. His cock flushes hard and hot in his palm, and he's ready. Loki's body is spread defenseless beneath him, naked but for the torn remnants of one sleeve. Thor's victory, his conquest is within reach.

But conflict freezes him, indecision heavy in his gut. He doesn't want to hurt Loki. He wants desperately to hurt Loki.

"Do it," Loki snarls, wrists twisting frustrated in Thor's grip. "Do it, or so help me—"

Thor ruts roughly in.

He takes Loki with a savagery that surprises and shames him. Loki offers no further resistance, but his pliant surrender does nothing to gentle Thor's thrusts. If anything, it urges Thor to an even more brutal rhythm. How dare Loki fight him to this point and then simply give in? How dare he let Thor prove which one of them is truly the monster?

Desire bubbles beneath Thor's skin, barbaric and possessive, and he claims Loki's mouth in a violent kiss. Loki gasps a low sound, then grunts (in pain or pleasure, Thor is beyond discerning) as Thor draws almost entirely out of his body and then drives back in with jarring force.

The smooth stone of the floor cracks beneath the ferocity of Thor's thrusts, and Loki breaks from Thor's kiss with a shout, his head thrown back and his own release slicking their stomachs.

But Thor isn't through. Thor's pleasure is still mounting, and his fingers dig unforgiving bruises into Loki's thighs as he claims his brother. Loki's breath is ragged staccato in Thor's ears, and Thor growls into his brother's skin with each thrust.

He pauses only long enough to shift between Loki's thighs, and he drags Loki's body with him when he rises to his knees. Loki lands astride Thor's lap, with Thor's length still seated deeply inside him, and he cries out as though in surprise. Thor grunts and drags Loki flush against him. He wants deeper inside his brother. He wants to claim every inch of him.

Loki is either too exhausted or too stubborn to move, and so Thor curls his fingers around the swell of Loki's ass and uses his own raw strength to move Loki along the unrelenting length of his cock. Loki groans and throws his head back. His hair cascades down his back and shoulders, and the long stretch of his bare neck is a temptation Thor can't hope to resist.

"Thor," Loki gasps at the first sting of Thor's teeth below his jaw. Thor growls against Loki's skin, and then places another bite just beneath the first. The taste of his brother's skin is intoxicating, and for a moment Thor stops maneuvering Loki's body and simply tastes.

And then it's too much. Thor's own need mounts in him like a growing maelstrom—like thunder and lightning and an oncoming storm—and he upends Loki roughly onto the floor. It's not enough, but it's better. He has leverage again this way, and his hands curl around Loki's hips as he drives himself as deep as Loki's body will take him. The way is slicker now—possibly the precursor to his own seed, or perhaps simply a result of his rough treatment of Loki's body.

Thor groans and drops forward, covering Loki with his weight, bracing himself on one elbow as the maelstrom at last overtakes him.

Thunder and lightning behind his eyes. Light and rage and the tight, secret heat of Loki's body around his rigid flesh. An impossible chaos of everything Thor has ever felt for his brother, wrapped in the overwhelming rush of physical sensation. For all the women Thor has taken to his bed, they've never made him feel like this.

He gasps his brother's name, over and over, between curses and whispers and confessions he won't remember later. He wraps his arms around Loki and spills inside him, slick and tight and perfect.

- — - — - — - — -

They don't speak, after. Thor pulls out of Loki's body with a grunt, and that's the closest they come to words.

Loki doesn't move as though he's hurt, although Thor knows his brother must be in pain. He's always been stronger than Thor gave him credit for, but after Thor's rough handling there will be bruises settling in soon. Bruises that will be slow to fade even from Loki's resilient skin.

Thor doesn't apologize. What's the point? For all the guilty shame twisting in his chest at what he's done (at how much he enjoyed it), he harbors no sentiment so noble as regret. And then also, there's Loki's voice in his head. A vivid memory snarling, 'Do it' in tones that brook no argument.

Thor wonders what they are to each other now. He wonders what it is they've become.

Loki doesn't move to cover himself once Thor is off of him. He simply rises to his feet and then curls smoothly into one corner of the settee, staring into the fire.

Thor watches him for a moment, long and silent, but finally leaves without a sound.

- — - — - — - — -

He doesn't keep his distance after, though perhaps he should. He's back in Loki's prison the very next day.

He makes every effort to keep his hands to himself, but it quickly becomes a losing battle when Loki climbs into his lap and, despite the golden power binding his wrists, wraps his arms around Thor's shoulders.

Thor's visits becomes daily occurrences. He can't stay away.

"You must be careful, Thor," Odin tells him once. "Perhaps it would be best if you and your friends went on a hunt. I give you my word I will not pass judgment until you return."

"Loki thinks you have already passed judgment," Thor says, and instantly wishes he hadn't. His father's face falls to guarded shadows, and he offers Thor no reassurance.

Thor does not invite his friends on a hunt. He declines when Sif proposes such an endeavor, an obvious ploy on behalf of the Allfather. He has no intention of leaving Asgard while Loki's fate still hangs in the balance.

- — - — - — - — -

For all that Loki's verbal barbs and temper don't improve, Thor starts to feel as though his brother welcomes his company.

Thor reclaims some measure of his self control, and most of his visits he carefully does not touch Loki.

They argue. They drink wine. Loki insults him, and Thor asks questions Loki refuses to answer. A familiar circle, if maddening.

Sometimes Loki invites Thor's touch so deliberately Thor can't even think of keeping his hands to himself. Loki's hand on his thigh, Loki's lips brushing the shell of his ear, Loki's warmth pressing close along his side. These things set Thor's blood to boiling faster than even the heat of battle, and of course he drags Loki against him and accepts what Loki is offering.

Sometimes Loki merely looks at him, but the want in Thor's chest is too much and he reaches out to take anyway.

Sometimes he doesn't know whose fault it is, only that he needs Loki like this, beneath him and panting, tight around the length of Thor's cock.

Loki doesn't always fight him. When he does fight, Thor's satisfaction is enough to shake the very room around them.

"You're too easy, Thor," Loki tells him once. Thor hasn't touched him today. They simply sit, separate chairs and careful space, staring into the fire. "A king should not be this simple to manipulate."

"Are you manipulating me?" Thor asks. It's a pointless question. Of course Loki is manipulating him. But to what end, Thor doesn't know. He almost doesn't care.

Loki snorts and shakes his head.

"Come," he says, standing. "I tire of this view. Let us see if we can't find some more amusing way to pass the time."

Thor follows Loki to his bed, and this time he stays until morning.

- — - — - — - — -

Thor grows increasingly weary of Odin's delays, and increasingly fearful of his verdict.

He's given up on asking, and so he's surprised when Loki turns in his arms one night and whispers, "I'll tell you, if you like. What Odin intends to do."

Thor holds his breath and grasps Loki more tightly.

"There's a spell," Loki says. "He can't cast it himself, but if he gathers enough of his sorcerers in one place they can manage the trick."

"What will it do?"

"It won't kill me," Loki says. "It will only silence me. Forever. An inferno of concentrated power that will burn my tongue right out of my head."

"No."

Odin couldn't do such a thing. Better to kill Loki than this. Better a thousand different deaths. Loki must be wrong.

But Loki's eyes are resigned, sure and sad in the knowledge of what's coming. Loki's not infallible, but he's not wrong about this.

"I won't let him," Thor says.

Loki laughs his disbelief. "You can't stop him. He is the Allfather. Once he declares his verdict, there's nothing you can do."

- — - — - — - — -

Thor realizes quickly what he has to do. He can't let Odin declare his verdict. He has to get Loki out.

But Loki's prison is impenetrable.

"There is a way," Loki murmurs to him. "Every prison has its weakness. This one has several. But there's nothing I can do. Not alone. Not so long as I'm bound by these." He holds up his wrists in their shimmering gold restraints.

"Tell me what to do."

- — - — - — - — -

Loki bids him bring Mjölnir. He shows Thor where to find the weak spots between the wards. He explains how to find them on the outside as well as the inside.

"And after that?"

"After that I disappear," Loki says with venom. "And Asgard never touches me again."

"What about me?"

Loki blinks at him in confusion.

"You cannot come with me, Thor. You will be king. Here."

"I will not lose you again."

Loki sighs and drops his head against his pillow. He pulls away from Thor's arms and shakes his head.

"Stubborn ox," he mutters. "Fine. When the time comes, you can make your own choice. But know that my path will not be a pleasant one. You may not wish to accompany me."

Thor would brave many unpleasant paths for his brother. He already knows what his answer will be.

- — - — - — - — -

He has no difficulty with the wards. He shatters Loki's prison apart, then incapacitates all hundred sentries as carefully as he can (it won't do to kill them, he doesn't mean them harm). But when he enters the crumbling ruin of the prison, there's no sign of Loki.

He's left. He's taken Thor's choice from him and flown forever. Thor drops Mjölnir to the floor, falls to his knees, and howls the rage he can't channel any other way.

- — - — - — - — -

He expects Odin to exile him again, but Odin simply shakes his head sadly.

"I suppose you had no choice."

"He is my brother," Thor says. The word feels inadequate now, though. Loki is more than his brother. "I couldn't let you silence him."

"Silence him?" Odin stares at Thor in startled bewilderment. "There's no force in the nine realms capable of silencing Loki."

"But…" Thor flounders. He stares. "But the spell."

"There is no spell. I intended to banish him to Jotunheim. It is a broken world because of Loki's actions. Justice would be served by such an exile."

No spell. Thor doesn't understand. Loki had been so certain, he couldn't have been wrong—

He wasn't wrong, Thor realizes with a lightning-sharp jolt of clarity. He knew all along what Odin truly intended.

Loki was right. A king—even a future king—should not be so easily manipulated.

"I am sorry, Father."

Though as he retreats to his own chambers, Thor honestly can't decide if, had he known, his choice would have been different.

- — - — - — - — -

It's months before Loki shows himself, and he doesn't appear until Thor is alone in the wilderness of Nornheim.

"You lied to me," Thor accuses. Night has fallen and the forest is thick with the sounds of life. "You said you would let me choose."

"I will always lie to you," Loki says, circling Thor with steps that bring him gradually closer. The forest floor makes no noise beneath his feet, and Thor wonders if this is even Loki and not some clever trick. "Just as I will always fight you."

"It doesn't have to be this way," Thor says. He doesn't call Loki 'Brother'. He's too worried it might send him away.

"Yes. It does."

Then Loki kisses him, and Thor crushes him close, no thought save holding on. Loki is not an illusion. He's here, he's real. He's the press of parted lips, and dangerous warmth beneath Thor's hands.

In the morning Loki is gone. But Thor knows with a certainty born of instinct that his brother's absence will not be forever.

And from that knowledge, he takes what comfort he can.