Chapter 1: Prologue
Thor coughed as a wave of dust hit him in the face, making him drop the old book he had found straight back into the trunk. Rubbing at his stinging eyes, he coughed some more.
“Thor?” his mother asked from next to him, seeming to appear out of nowhere. “What is it that you are doing?”
Thor squinted up at her with tear-filled eyes. “I was looking for the book grandfather gave me. I thought Loki might like it - you know I hate reading.”
His mother smiled warmly at him and reached down to gently rub his still irritated eyes with the corner of her apron, successfully removing any dust that still clung to his lashes.
“I am certain Loki would be very happy about your gift, however I know not whether his father would appreciate you giving his son a book full of fancy horror-stories,” she said, sounding almost chiding.
“They are no horror-stories!” Thor protested with all the indignation of a nine year-old and would have stamped his foot, had he not still been on his knees in front of the trunk. “They are fairy tales! And grandfather said that they all have a grain of truth in them!”
His mother sighed, looking terribly put upon. “It is no secret that your grandfather failed to become an adult even in his advanced age, but there is no need to scare Loki with your ghastly stories.”
Thor pouted at her and made a show of folding his arms in front of his chest. “Loki would like them,” he insisted petulantly.
Instead of dwelling further on the subject, his mother closed the trunk in front of him and gently thrust a bucket in his direction, forcing him to unwrap his arms and accept it.
“I wish to scrub the floor and am in need of water,” his mother told him and helped him to his feet. “Be a dear and bring me some from the forest.”
“I hate getting you water,” Thor whined. “And I promised Loki I would meet him to play!”
Straightening herself, his mother put her hands on her hips, her gentle face tightening slightly in annoyance. “I am quite certain that Loki would not protest so much if I asked him to bring me water. You may ask him to join us for dinner, dusk is almost upon us as it is.”
“Is not,” Thor muttered darkly, but obediently made his way to the door, knowing that he had reached the end of his mother’s considerable patience.
“Be quick, dear, will you?” his mother called after him.
Thor ignored her, careful not to let his mother hear the curse that he had learned from Volstagg the other day and jumped down the last few steps at the front of their house. The wood was worn and creaky and would have fallen apart long ago if his father, the town’s smith, had not taken the time to fit iron casing on the edges to prevent further wear.
Dashing in the direction of the forest, Thor took the time to wave to Jane and Sif who where playing not far from their house, which adjoined the one where Thor lived with his parents, and spared a moment to cast a sympathetic look into little Hildegarde’s direction where she was crying over the small goat her father intended to sacrifice for the wolf that night.
The wooden replica of the full moon stared down at Thor from where it had been put up in the middle of the main square, towering over the villagers every month as an ominous reminder. As if anyone was able to forget. Shivering slightly, Thor quickly looked away from the scowling face of the wooden moon and picked up his pace.
Shifting his grip on the bucket’s handle, Thor made his way towards the edge of the forest, the area where his grandfather’s cabin lay. He knew what the other villagers called his grandfather, had heard their disdainful remarks about ‘crazy old Erik’. Thor did not understand their malice, could not fathom why someone should be shunned simply because he did not want to live directly in the village. When he had asked his mother about it one night, her hands busy tucking the furs around him, she had looked at Thor with sad eyes and kissed his forehead, telling him that people often feared things they did not understand, that it reminded them too much of their own shortcomings. Thor was not quite certain what that meant, but stored the words safely in the back of his mind all the same, in order to be able to come back to them when he was older. Everyone always assured him that things would be different then, and that he would come to understand all the things that he did not at the moment.
Kicking up some stray leaves, Thor spotted the pond and unceremoniously jumped into it, splashing water as far up as his knees. His mother would chide him mercilessly, but Thor was never one for elaborate consideration of his actions and regularly exasperated his parents with his impulsive behaviour. Stamping his foot simply because he could, Thor watched the water splash even higher, before shivering slightly as a cool breeze swept through the trees. Yellow and brown rained down upon him and the rustling of the leaves sounded like whispers in Thor’s ears.
Shaking his head to clear it, Thor bent down with every intention of filling the bucket, but was distracted once more. A worn pair of familiar dark boots appeared in his direct line of sight and Thor shot back up, a grin already splitting his face. He found Loki regarding him with his customary, broody expression, a slight frown creasing his forehead.
“You were supposed to come and play with me,” he accused, folding his arms in front of his chest very much like Thor had done only minutes before.
Bucket forgotten, and grin still firmly in place, Thor scrambled out of the pond. Loki reluctantly reached out a hand to help Thor to his feet, even though it only led to Thor having to grab Loki’s arms to steady his scrawny form as Thor’s bigger frame unbalanced him.
“Sorry,” Thor said, still holding on to the other boy. “Mother sent me to get water.”
Loki eyed the abandoned bucket, before looking back at Thor with the smallest smirk. “I can see how that turned out.”
Thor playfully cuffed him in the side, careful to mind his own strength so as not to knock the smaller boy over. Even for being two years younger, Loki was small for his age, thin as a rake and with a sickly pale complexion. Thor had spent many a week sitting at Loki’s bedside when the other boy had been struck down by sickness and was unable to leave the house.
The other children thought Loki was strange and tended to avoid him on all costs. The girls thought he was creepy, repeating what their mothers gossiped with one another and calling him strange like his father, claiming that something was wrong with him, and the boys called him weak and a girl, making cruel jokes about how he would never be a proper man.
When Loki had been four and Thor six, Thor had rescued him from a group of bullies, all of them older and much bigger than Loki. Thor had punched the cruelest of them in the face and had shouted at the rest, calling them cowards. Thor, in contrast to Loki, was bigger for his age and often thought to be older than he was. It was already obvious that he had inherited his father’s burly frame and that he would make a great blacksmith one day. This, combined with his fierce temper and the knowledge that his father would be anything but pleased should one of them decide to attack Thor, led the others making themselves scarce and Thor had helped Loki to his feet to check him for wounds.
From that day on, they had been inseparable.
Thor’s friends didn’t really understand his attachment to Loki. Though they kept their opinions about Loki to themselves - or at least to conversations when Thor was not present - it was clear that they thought Loki strange as well. They accepted him well enough, but never interacted directly with him if it could be helped, shying away from Loki’s ever-sharpening tongue and over-developed wit.
For Thor, Loki was the cleverest person he knew and he would have gone with him to the ends of the world. Loki might be a bit strange, but Thor did not doubt for one moment that the other boy loved him just as dearly as Thor did him. Considering the type of father Loki had, it was no surprise that he was a little strange - at least that was what he had heard his parents say one day when they had thought him asleep.
Laufey was creepy. Even Thor had to admit to that. In contrast to his son, Laufey was huge, at least one and a half heads taller than Thor’s father and easily the tallest in the whole village. He was thin, but not without muscle, his shoulders broad and his arms strong from felling trees and chopping wood. As long as Thor had known him, he had never once seen him smile. If he could, Thor would have taken Loki from his care and never let him go back to his father. He would let Loki sleep with him and protect him from creepy Laufey, force-feeding him his mother’s delicious cooking and putting some meat onto his scrawny form.
But Loki never spoke of his family and Thor had learned to leave the topic well alone, loath to see the sad look on Loki’s face whenever it came up. Loki’s mother, Fárbauti, had died when he was still an infant. That much Thor knew from the gossipers in town, and it was said that Laufey had never been the same since. Thor had a hard time imagining the man ever having been different.
"So will you bring your mother the water she requested?” Loki asked, tearing him from his thoughts.
Unable to resist, Thor reached up a hand and gently ruffled Loki’s raven hair and grinned at him. “I am sure she can wait a while longer.”
Loki batted at his hand, trying to duck out from under Thor’s arm and gifting him with one of his darker scowls. “Dusk is near,” Loki told him, successfully having dodged Thor’s ministrations. “We should not venture into the woods at this hour.”
Thor’s grin only widened. “Scared?” he goaded him gently. “Worry not, Loki. I will protect you. I promise we will be back in time for dinner!”
Slinging an arm around Loki’s thin frame, Thor tugged him into the direction of the woods. Loki let him.
It did not lie in Thor’s nature to be complicated or suspicious. He did not dread things the way others seemed to, simply because he did not let himself. For him, there was no uncertainty, no doubt in what he wanted.
From the moment he had saved Loki from those bullies, he had wanted him by his side, had wanted to protect him and keep him. If Thor had made up his mind about something, he stuck to it. He had wanted Loki then and it was no surprise that he still wanted Loki now. Growing up might have shed some light on the way he wanted him, but want him he did.
At sixteen, Thor had quite a good idea of how many ways he wanted Loki, knew that his love for him had remained the same constant, only that he finally knew that it wasn’t the same love he had for all his other friends, but rather the love that made him dream of marrying him as soon as they were both old enough and Thor had taken over his father’s smithy and was able to support them both. His parents seemed aware of that fact and Thor had never bothered to conceal his love for Loki. They seemed not to mind his choice, rather taking great pleasure in embarrassing him and smiling knowingly at Thor’s ever-growing infatuation.
Loki had always welcomed his affections. Despite his otherwise sharp tongue and cold stares, Loki was only ever warm with Thor, visibly holding his more vicious side inside when in the presence of Thor’s friends - entirely for Thor’s sake. He seemed just as eager to receive Thor’s touch as Thor was to give it, curling into Thor’s embraces and letting Thor rest his head in Loki’s lap when he read, his long fingers curling into Thor’s hair until Thor felt sleepy and ready to stay that way forever.
It was not in Thor’s nature to be complicated or suspicious, life had not taught him to. Not yet.
Wiping sweat from his brow, Thor regarded his work with a critical eye. Amora had asked for a small cross, a pendant to give to her wife for her birthday and Thor wanted it to be perfect. Despite his young age, his father trusted him to do his work well and Thor wanted to do him proud.
His father was getting old and it seemed to Thor that he noticed new lines every time he looked upon his familiar face. The responsibility of becoming the master of the smithy, of caring for his parents grew with every passing day, but the burden was an old one and to Thor did not feel like a burden at all. He enjoyed working at the smithy, the feel of metal beneath his hands and the knowledge that he could shape it however he wanted. He wished everything in life was as easily shaped as this.
Thor looked up from his work, squinting slightly through the heat of the fire and at the sudden change of light as he looked towards the bars shaping the entrance of the smithy. The iron was old, but well cared for, the bars ensuring that enough air reached the inside and an easy exit for the smoke and heat of the fires within. A familiar basket in hand, Jane stood backlit by the bright light of midday, the sun high in the sky, and shot a glance at his father’s back from where he was working at the other end of the room.
“May I have a moment of your time?” she asked quickly, her fingers curling around blunt iron as they had many times before, but Thor thought he could see a tightness in her features. “I brought your lunch.”
Thor frowned but did not comment on it, looking instead to his father, who waved him away with a smile of permission. “You are due for a break, my son. The pendant will still be here after you have had your lunch.”
Hastily stripping away his apron, Thor put his tools away and followed Jane into the cool air outside. Autumn had started to colour the leaves of the forest with yellows and reds and the air was already turning crisper. They settled outside on a wooden bench against the the outer wall of the smithy and Jane handed him a bundle wrapped in one of his mother’s cloths, which Thor accepted gratefully.
“Where is Loki?” he asked as he unwrapped the parcel, plucking an apple from it and taking a hearty bite. Most days it was he that brought lunch to Thor and they would eat together before Loki had to return to the forest to help his father and the other woodcutters.
“He felt out of sorts and has remained at home today,” Jane told him, listlessly picking at her share of the food.
Thor lowered the apple he was gnawing on and turned concerned eyes to his friend. “He is unwell? Then I should take the time to visit him before I return to work.”
Jane stood alongside Thor, putting a gentle hand on his arm before he could rush off. “He was sleeping last I saw him. Maybe you should not wake him.”
Thor’s frown deepened. “Is there something you are not telling me, Jane?”
Jane gave a helpless shrug, her hands twisting into her apron. “That is not it. I am merely…” she trailed off, seemingly uncertain how to continue, before looking up at Thor. “Have you noticed anything strange about Loki of late? I mean, anything stranger than usual?”
Having now completely lost his appetite, Thor offered the apple to Heimdall’s steed, where it was waiting to be shod by his father. The horse accepted the apple, taking it from his flat palm in one bite and chewing happily on it.
“I know not of what you speak,” he told Jane, concern slowly twisting his insides now that it had taken root. “Has he said anything of concern to you?”
Jane sighed. “You know very well that Loki speaks his mind to no one but you. It is just…” she hesitated once more before forcing herself to continue. “Laufey seems in a darker mood of late and I simply thought that Loki had perhaps told you something? He seems troubled when he thinks you do not see him and I worry for him.”
Everything, including the pendant he had so feverishly worked on moments before, was forgotten as he handed the parcel of food back to Jane. “I must see him,” Thor told her firmly, a feeling of dread spreading in his chest. “If what you say is true I must ask him about it myself.”
Jane accepted the food and hugged it to her chest. “Let me know if I can be of help.”
Thor nodded, before taking off into the direction of Laufey’s house.
When he knocked for propriety’s sake, he did not expect the door to swing open to reveal Laufey. Usually, the man would be at work at this time, even on the days that Loki was struck down with fever. Thor’s stomach twisted painfully as concern tightened his chest. Was Loki more unwell than usual?
Glowering down at Thor with one of the darkest expressions Thor had ever seen on Laufey’s face, the other man held the door open only far enough to allow conversation.
“Good day, Laufey,” Thor said with forced calm, anxiety vibrating through his body and making him shift his weight. “I wish to see Loki. Jane told me he is ill.”
“My son is asleep and requires rest,” Laufey growled at him, his scowl, if possible, darkening further. “You are not welcome in this house, Odinson. Your association with Loki has gone on long enough. I do not wish for you to distract my son from his duties. He has more important things to do than to gallivant around the village with you.”
Thor stared at Laufey, thunderstruck, feeling as though the ground had been plucked from under his feet.
“What is it that you are saying?” he asked numbly, his fingers curling towards his palm in the hope that the pain from his fingernails digging into his flesh would ground him.
“I forbid you from seeing my son,” Laufey snapped at him. “You will stay away from him and refrain from speaking to him should your paths cross.”
Thor’s chest tightened further, his breath stolen by shock and a rage that made him shake. Blood boiling in his veins, Thor had never wanted to punch someone as badly as he wanted to punch Laufey at this moment. “You cannot do this!” he cried and instead of landing it in Laufey’s face, let his fist connect harshly with the door to stop it from closing.
The wood trembled beneath the force and creaked in protest, Thor’s bones grinding together painfully. He did not move his fist.
Laufey glowered down at him, spearing him with his icy glare, colour rising to his face. “Loki is my son and I will do with him as I please! If you do not honour my wishes it is he that will suffer! If you care for him at all, you will do as I say!”
The words had the desired effect and his grip unwittingly slackened. Laufey wasted no time in taking advantage and slammed the door in Thor’s face, missing his nose by a hair’s breath. Jolted back to life, Thor’s rage burned anew and his fist had slammed against the wood before better judgment had time to set in.
“You cannot do this!” he roared at the closed door, repeating the words because he had not the mind to form new ones. The art of clever words was Loki’s department.
Thor’s eyes stung as soon as the thought of Loki rose in his mind. Loki who was ill and needed Thor’s care, who deserved so much more than a bitter father who thought his son was his property.
Muscles suddenly weak with grief, Thor bowed his head, his forehead coming to rest next to his fist against the rough wood.
He did not know how long it took for him to be able to move again, his breath torn from him in harsh chokes, but when he did, it was with dry eyes and the knowledge that he would return. Instead of anger it was determination that burned in his veins.
Thor would not give up.
That night, protected by the cloak of darkness, Thor sneaked from his house, careful to avoid the steps he knew would creak. His parents had gone to the village tavern, leaving Thor at home under the pretence of a headache. He did not have to act much to look sick, Laufey’s words still lying heavy in his stomach.
The moon above him was but half full, setting the village at ease and brightening the moods of its inhabitants. Thor kept to the shadows of the houses, more villagers than usually on the streets on their way to or from the tavern. He managed to reach Laufey’s house without incident, creeping along the back and craning his neck to look up at Loki’s bedroom window.
The faint light of a single candle flickered and cast shadows against the walls inside and Thor did not hesitate to climb the small, unused stable at the back of the house. Careful not to make a noise, Thor searched the wall for the familiar crack and forced the tip of his boot into it. Reaching up, he wrapped his hands around the base of the window and heaved himself up.
He found Loki, who was still unaware of his presence, huddled in his sheets, back pressed against the corner where his bed stood and looking so heartbreakingly lonely that Thor wanted nothing more than to slip under the covers with him and hold him in his arms. His gaze was vacant and he looked a thousand miles away, the absence of a book saying more about his troubled mind than anything else.
“Loki,” Thor whispered and Loki’s head immediately snapped up, eyes widening as he saw Thor at his window.
Not waiting for further invitation, Thor crawled into the room, once again careful not to make a sound. By the time he straightened himself, Loki had scrambled out from under his blanket and was standing on shaking legs next to his bed. Thor hastened to his side, wrapping careful arms around his thin waist to steady him.
Loki’s hands were cold enough that Thor could feel it seeping through his tunic when the other boy put them on his chest. Now close enough to see Loki properly, Thor took in his drawn, pale face and the cold sweat gathering on his forehead. Reaching up from a reflex born from years of concern, Thor felt Loki’s forehead and found that it was ablaze with fever.
Loki allowed the familiar touch, letting his eyes slide closed as Thor brushed several stray strands of dark hair from where they stuck to his overheated face.
“Thor,” he whispered, re-opening his eyes to turn green eyes up at him. “What are you doing here?”
Bestowing a caress to Loki’s cheek, Thor helped him sit on the bed and dragged the blanket back over his shivering form before answering him.
“I needed to see you,” Thor answered, careful not to let his voice carry. “Your father wouldn’t let me when I came by today. He was speaking madness, claiming I was not allowed to see you again.”
Loki briefly closed his eyes in defeat and sank deeper into his blanket, before meeting Thor’s gaze once again. “He told me as much.”
Unable to hold back, Thor cupped Loki’s face with his big hands, gently running his thumbs over the soft, heated skin of Loki’s cheeks. “I will not let him keep us apart,” he swore passionately. “I will climb through your window every night if it is the only way I am allowed to see you. There is nothing that can make me stay away from you!”
Loki sighed, curling his long, delicate fingers around Thor’s wrists and gently removing them form his face. In the process, his sleeves slid up his arms and revealed two identical, thin silver bracelets that Thor had never seen before. The skin around them was sore and irritated, swollen as if burned.
Forgetting everything else for a moment, Thor caught one of Loki’s hands and used the other to push his sleeve further up his arm, bringing Loki’s wrist closer to his face in order to inspect it. “What is this?” Thor asked, his voice more forceful than he had intended. “Who gave these to you? Your father?”
Loki wrenched his hand free, catching Thor by surprise and making him release the other boy abruptly, stung by the uncharacteristic rejection.
“It is of no concern to you,” Loki hissed, glaring at him with bright green eyes.
Stunned, Thor let his hands fall into his lap, giving Loki some space. “Loki…”
Loki looked away, putting even more distance between them as he curled further into his blanket and hid his hands from sight.
“Will you not tell me what ails you?” Thor asked softly, carefully reaching out once more, unable to bear the distance between them.
Loki allowed the tentative touch to his shoulder, but refused to raise his eyes. “My father is right.”
Thor froze, the grip on Loki’s shoulder tightening in alarm, as if it would be enough to keep Loki with him. “What?”
Finally raising his head, Loki met his gaze with hard eyes. “He’s right. We cannot keep seeing each other.”
Thor felt frozen to the core, both his hands now cradling Loki’s thin shoulders in his palms. “You cannot mean this!”
Loki rose, extracting himself from Thor’s grip. “Do not make this any more difficult than it has to be,” there was an edge to his voice that almost sounded like pleading. “We were never meant for each other.”
“Do not say that!” Thor’s voice rose to a dangerous level and he struggled to force it back under control, jumping up from the bed. “What did your father tell you? What is it that makes you act this way?”
“Thor,” Loki hissed, anger blazing from his eyes. “Will you not see sense? I am not good for you! So go and find someone who is!”
Grabbing Loki by the shoulders once more, Thor leaned close enough to fill his nose with his scent, the desire to kiss him so overwhelming that Thor had to close his eyes for a moment. When he re-opened them, Loki was looking at him with unreadable eyes, his jaw clenched and his every muscle shaking, whether it was from sickness, anger or something else, Thor did not know.
“I do not want anyone else,” Thor growled, suppressing the urge to shake Loki in the hope of returning some sense to him. “I want you. I have aways wanted you and I always will and if you will not have me now than I shall wait for the day that you will.”
“And what if that day never comes?” Loki whispered, eyes bright with something more than simply fever.
“It will,” Thor swore, believing every word. “I will make sure of it.”
“You are a fool, Thor,” Loki choked out, tears finally welling up despite how hard he seemed to be fighting them.
“For you, always,” Thor promised.
Loki looked at him for another moment, before coming to some sort of decision. Thor had hardly time to react before Loki was in his arms, his cold hands threading into Thor’s shoulder-length hair as he pressed his thin body against Thor’s, lips feverishly hot against his own. Thor reacted completely out of instinct, wrapping his arms around Loki’s narrow waist and holding him close as tightly as he dared.
It was not how Thor had imagined their first kiss, far from it, but he was helpless against his desire and his lips parted before he knew what he was doing, letting Loki’s hot tongue push insistently into his mouth and seeking out his own. When Loki found it, Thor could not help the deep moan that was wrenched from his throat, thankfully muffled between their mouths and Loki dragged him even closer, opening his mouth further to deepen the kiss. There was a sharp sting as Loki bit his lower lip almost hard enough to draw blood and Thor winced, both in surprise and in pain, before another moan escaped him as Loki sucked it into his mouth.
An then, as suddenly as it had started, it was over.
Wrenching himself free, Loki pushed him away, stumbling back and away from Thor until there was enough distance between them to prevent them from touching anymore. They were both panting, sucking in lungfuls of air and staring at each other from across the room. Thor’s lips felt bruised and tender, the spot Loki had bitten still stinging and he ran his tongue over it born from a reflex to soothe it.
Instead of feeling alarmed by it, however, Thor had the urge to feel it again. He would let Loki do whatever he pleased to him, would let him bite at his lips until they bled only to lick them clean again. The thought frightened him, shocked him to the core. It made him feel more like an animal than a man and he wondered whether there was something wrong with him.
Loki was the first to recover, straightening his still shaking form and drawing even further away and into the shadows of the room.
“Leave, now,” he ordered, quietly but firmly. “And no matter what happens after tonight, remember what you told me. Will you promise me that?”
“I promise,” Thor answered without hesitation.
“Good,” Loki’s face was hidden by shadow, so Thor could not be sure, but he thought he could hear a smile in his voice. “Now go.”
Thor went, but his heart stayed right there leaving behind an empty ache that nothing would be able to fill until, one day, they could be together again.
On Thor’s eighteenth birthday, his grandfather gave him a red cloak. It was heavy and warm, keeping the winter chill from his body and fitting him as if it were a part of him. Grandfather told him that his grandmother had made it for him when he was still an infant, intending to give it to him as a coming-of-age present. Now that she had passed on before being able to give it to him herself, his grandfather had done so in her stead.
Thor thought Loki would look beautiful spread out upon it and swore that he would make that happen one day.
When next he saw Loki in town, he sent him a secret smile and though it remained unreturned, there was a gentle brush against his new cloak from where it hugged his broad shoulders. By the time he had turned to look, however, Loki had caught up to the tall form of his father and was tailing him and the other woodcutters into the forest.
The empty space in his chest ached, but Thor forced himself to ignore it. He tugged his hood up against the sharp wind and walked back to the smithy, his cloak trailing behind him. Blood red on white.
Their village lay on the edge of a dark forest, few even knew its name, but many knew that terrible things had been happening there on the night of the full moon for several generations now. Everyone was wary of strangers here in Asgard, and if any should come by, they would quickly leave once more. No one lingered here, except for the ones who had lived there their whole lives.
Thor’s parents had always tried to ingrain the importance of caution into him ever since he was a child, but Thor’s nature often got in the way of his good resolutions. He had always tried to be more careful, tried to fear the wolf as much as everyone else, but there were times that he could not understand how they could let themselves be ruled by the same monster for so long. Or maybe it was monsters, by now. No one really knew whether it was the same wolf, or offspring of the one that had started all the trouble long years ago.
For quite a few years now, the wolf had kept the fragile peace the villagers were constantly cultivating by sacrifices every full moon, leaving it livestock to take when it came in order to spare the people. Thor did not trust it. His grandfather used to tell him that the wolf killed entire families, that it snatched children form their beds. Those stories had never seemed real to Thor, not until the peace was finally broken when the church bells tolled one evening, when dusk had barely spread across the land.
Dropping the horse shoe he had been working on, Thor grabbed his favourite hammer, a gift from his father when he had taken over the smithy. It was big and solid, heavy enough to kill a man and adorned with celtic symbols his father had painstakingly engraved into it. Clipping it onto the familiar place at his belt, Thor rushed from the smithy and almost collided with his friends.
“Thor!” Fandral called, grabbing his arm as he, Volstagg and Hogun came to a stop beside him. “The wolf has struck.”
“Have you seen Loki?” Thor asked immediately, looking around the villagers rushing by them. “And where are Sif and Jane?”
The three shook their heads. “We have not seen them,” Volstagg said as they all continued on their way.
Thor picked up his steps, a brief surge of relief passing through him when he spotted his parents at the front of the mob. They had almost reached the edge of the forest and Thor gently grabbed his mother’s arm when he reached her.
“Who did it take?” he asked, slightly breathless from both the run and the rising dread.
His mother turned her tear streaked face to him and Thor’s stomach plummeted further. Frantically looking past her, Thor only had time for a second of relief when he could not see any dark hair or clothes, before his knees almost gave way when he saw Sif kneeling at her sister’s prone form, weeping into her apron.
Not hesitating another moment, Thor pushed through the last few people and rushed to Sif’s side, all but crushing her to his chest. Sif clung to him, burying her face in his clothes so as not to be forced to see the four deep gashes running down Jane’s neck and chest. The beast had not bothered to eat her, had simply severed her carotid artery and sliced open her throat and left her where she fell. Reaching over with a shaking hand and stinging eyes, Thor gently closed Jane’s shock-widened eyes, before cupping it around the back of Sif’s head, gently cradling her close as he hid his own face in her dark hair.
Having left Sif and her mothers in the care of his own and the other women from their neighbourhood, Thor sucked in a deep breath. The air smelled of snow, the flakes that had started to fall having only increased and already started to hide the ground beneath a thin blanket of white.
Not desiring the company of a horde of noisy, drunken men, Thor avoided the tavern and instead hid in the smithy’s empty stables, unable to think of any other place that would give him the solitude he required. There was only one person he wanted to see and if he managed to sneak away at all, he would know where to look.
Loki arrived mere minutes after Thor had squeezed himself into the corner furthest from the door, wrapped in his red cloak and feeling for all the world as if the grief would suffocate him. He slid down beside him onto the hay and wordlessly opened his arms to draw him close. Thor buried his face against Loki’s neck, painting it with his tears as his arms wound tightly around his narrow waist.
Thor had craved to be back in Loki’s arms again for years and it seemed the height of unfairness that it should only be granted to him on such a horrid occasion, leeching almost all the pleasure from the gesture by the bitter taste of Jane’s passing. Threading gentle fingers through his shoulder length hair, Loki ghosted a kiss against his rough jaw and held him even tighter as if sensing his thoughts.
“I cannot stay,” Loki told him softly, lips brushing Thor’s ear, even as he tightened his hold on him even more. “My father is at the tavern and will grow suspicious if I do not join him.”
Thor clutched back desperately, crushing Loki’s smaller form against him tightly enough to squeeze the breath from his lungs. “Do not leave me.”
Loki buried his own face in Thor’s shoulder, and held him hard enough to hurt for a moment, before letting him go altogether. Thor refused to budge, holding on even tighter and pressing fervent kisses against the soft skin of Loki’s neck, tasting the salty tears he had left there only moments before.
“Thor,” Loki’s protest sounded more like plea and his hands were weak and bereft of serious intent when they pushed at his shoulders. “Please, I need to go.”
Thor resisted for all of another minute, before loosening his hold and letting Loki free himself from his arms. Taking a moment to gaze at him, Thor fleetingly caressed a pale cheek before drawing back altogether. Loki had not changed much. He was still dangerously thin, still shorter than Thor and his skin was as pale and sickly as ever, his dark hair a sharp contrast. Only his shoulders had broadened out slightly, his arms covered with subtle muscles from his work in the woods. Nevertheless, to Thor he still looked as though a strong gust of wind could blow him over and the need to protect him was unchanged. Though Thor strongly suspected that even if Loki were to grow as tall as Laufey and as muscly as his own father, Thor would still feel the need to protect him.
Loki stood, brushing hay from his dark clothes and shaking out his green cloak in order to make himself presentable again. Thor followed suit, not bothering with the hay and instead gently catching one of Loki’s hands in his. Brushing a thumb against Loki’s thin wrist, Thor could feel the cold metal of the bracelet still resting there. He had never seen them again after that fateful night in Loki’s room when they had parted ways, Loki was careful to keep them covered at all times.
Flinching slightly at the touch, Loki drew his hand back, raising it instead to adjust his cloak. Thor sighed, aching with loss and the desire to be close to Loki. Unable to resist, Thor crowded him against the wall, gently cupping Loki’s bony hips with his palms.
“Will you not kiss me before you go?” he asked softly, brushing his nose against Loki’s.
Loki put his palms against Thor’s chest, but did not push him away. Tilting his head into the playful caress, Loki sighed.
“This is a bad idea,” he murmured, even as he accepted the soft brush of Thor’s lips against his own. “And the sole reason why I never sought you out alone since that day.”
Thor ignored his words, instead cupped his jaw with both hands and lowered his head to close the distance between them once more. A spark like lightning shot through him at the contact and he moaned helplessly, his tongue already craving Loki’s taste and coming out to gently run over the seam of his mouth.
Loki’s lips parted easily for him, one of his long fingered hands cupping the back of his neck as it had done so long ago when they had first shared that forbidden kiss in Loki’s room. It had been four years, enough time for Thor’s fantasy to fool him into making the memory better and more magical than it was, but as he reclaimed Loki’s mouth now, it felt just as good, if not better than it had the first time.
Thor had stayed true to his promise, there had been no one else for him and years of frustration and longing suddenly seemed more than worth the feeling of Loki’s tongue winding around his own, of his lithe body pressing into Thor from head to toe. But just like the first time, Loki drew back too soon and he was left gasping and wanting so very desperately that he thought he would perish from it.
“I must go,” Loki told him firmly, still slightly breathless from their kisses.
He pushed Thor away, determination now tightening his jaw as he straightened his clothes for the second time before running a hand through his hair to assure that it was still combed back the way it should be. Thor knew better than to deter him again.
“When will I see you again?” he asked instead.
Loki gave him an unreadable look, the distance between them already far more than Thor could bear. “You know that we cannot see each other.”
“Loki,” Thor insisted, taking a step closer once more and feeling raw from the events of the day. “You turned eighteen two days ago. Surely your father can no longer dictate your actions? You are of age, free to do as you please.”
Loki shook his head as if Thor had said the most ridiculous thing. “Do not speak of things you know nothing of,” he told him, voice dangerously low and somehow much darker and more threatening than Thor could ever remember.
So Loki had changed after all. Of course he had. There was no way that constant solitude save for the suffocating presence of Laufey would not have changed him. Thor wanted to snatch him up and take him far, far away.
“Then why do you not explain it to me?” Thor all but pleaded, reaching out for Loki’s hand once more, this time careful not to touch the bracelet hidden beneath his sleeve. “All these years and I know nothing of what goes on in your mind!”
“Trust me, you do not want to know my mind,” Loki said darkly and the look in his eyes sent a shiver down Thor’s spine. “I can solve this, I promise. I just need more time.”
Thor’s grip on Loki’s hand tightened, both in exasperation and in fear. “Solve what?”
Touching his face gently, Loki brushed some wayward strands of Thor’s hair from his face. “I am sorry, I cannot tell you,” he said softly. “It is for your own safety.”
If possible, Thor was even more confused now than he was before, but Loki did not let him voice any of it. Distracting him with one last, fleeting kiss, he slid from his grasp and out into the evening.
Knowing that his desire for solitude was spent, Thor made his way to the tavern, feeling enough of a masochist that he would rather breathe the same air as Loki, even if he shared it with almost all the men from the village, rather than to not have it at all. Finding his friends at their usual table, Thor greeted them absently as his eyes met Loki’s from across the room from where he sat with his father at their usual table.
Most men were half-drunk and grief-stricken, the anger singing in their blood making them spout foolish fantasies about how to kill the wolf. Thor was only half-listening, his gaze instead moving between Loki and the tankard of mead in front of him in which he was attempting to drown all of his sorrows and failing miserably at it.
It was only when several men had jumped up and were holding weapons of different sizes in the air that Thor moved his attention back to what was being said. Tyr was standing on one of the benches to appear even bigger than he was, an axe raised above him and blood-thirst in his eyes.
Thor knew him well. He was a man who liked to take charge, but was ill suited for leadership, his brash behaviour often ending in brawls that left furniture and bones broken. The other men looked up to him, mostly, Thor suspected, because they wished for the same foolish disposition and lack of sensitivity that allowed Tyr to do and say as he pleased, glorifying his brutality and making it into bravery.
“We have kept our end of the bargain,” Tyr claimed loudly, raising the axe even higher as if to underline his point. “But the beast chose to disregard it and killed one of our people. I say we kill it!”
The crowd answered with a roar, raising more weapons and tankards alike. Thor chanced a glance at Loki and found him frowning at the men, mirroring Thor’s own expression.
Thor understood the need for vengeance and he had always been in favour of fighting back instead of letting the village be ruled by fear of the wolf. But they were no soldiers, had no experience in combat and Thor knew the beast was of higher intelligence than most of these men put together. Stumbling blindly into a fight under the illusion of liquid courage and on unfamiliar ground was the height of foolishness.
“No,” Father Heimdall said, his voice not raised but still able to reach each man present and tearing Thor from his dark thoughts. “I have contacted Father Fafnir. He will arrive tomorrow at dawn. It would be foolish to act before then.”
“Father Fafnir?” Tyr sneered, earning himself another round of laughs and whistles.
“He has dealt with things such as these before,” Heimdall warned them, undeterred by the jeering. “It would do well to wait for his council.”
“No,” Tyr said firmly, turning to the other men for approval and finding it. “Jane was one of us. We should be the ones to avenge her death, to show the beast that it has gone too far! We will not sit by any longer and let it kill our people!”
Roaring in agreement, men all around Thor jumped to their feet. He remained seated, his bones heavy with tiredness and dread. Fandral, Volstagg and Hogun exchanged worried glances.
“We have all seen the bones paving the path to Mount Jötunn. It is there that it makes its lair,” Hermod cried, something like triumph already colouring his voice. “And we all know its weaknesses! It cannot come out in daylight, it cannot step onto holy ground-”
“And there is silver,” one of the other men finished, drawing a dagger from a sheath hidden in his jacket. “That will kill it!”
That statement produced another round of roaring and cheering as though victory was already theirs.
“I think Father Heimdall is right,” Loki’s voice suddenly cut through the noise, making men turn to look at him where he sat. “We should wait for Father Fafnir. You do not know the danger you wish to pursue.”
More than one man openly laughed at the suggestion, while some of them simply called “Coward!”. Thor was already rising to his feet in anger, ready to jump to Loki’s defence, when Laufey himself rose and glowered down at his son.
“Maybe, my son, you should find your courage,” he growled disdainfully.
Loki glared at him, but remained silent, yielding to his father’s words. Thor’s blood was boiling in his veins, his hand tightening around his hammer enough to make his nails leave marks on the leather handle.
Rising from his seat, Loki straightened his shoulders and swept his blazing green eyes over the assembled crowd. “If you wish to seek more death on a sad day such as this, then so be it,” he told them softly, voice dangerous and cutting.
It was broken by the men cheering at each other and shouting various variations of “Let us kill it!” at each other, punctuated by tankards being hit rhythmically on the table and feet stamping against the wooden floor. Exhilarated by their own stupidity, the men jumped from their seats and rushed outside to gather weapons and warm cloaks.
Thor followed them slowly, agreeing to meet with Fandral, Volstagg and Hogun at the village gate in a few minutes after they had fetched appropriate weapons of their own.
Loki caught him before he had reached his destination, dragging him into the darkened entrance of a barn.
“Do not come,” he told him once they were concealed form view, grabbing Thor’s arms in a tight grip. “Let the fools go alone and stay with your family.”
Thor glared at him, anger still running hot after hearing the men and Laufey insult Loki. “And let you go without me? Never.”
“Thor, please, I will be safe,” Loki insisted, his fingers digging almost painfully into his arms. “My father will protect me.”
Thor snarled and wrapped his arms around Loki’s waist to hold him close. “The day I trust anyone but me with your safety, is the day I no longer draw breath into my lungs!” he swore fiercely. “You may deprive me of your company, may refuse me the intimacy I so desire and order me to do your every whim, but you will not make me leave you! Nor will I let you leave me! Wherever you go, I will follow and that is the end of it!”
Loki knew when he was beaten, though he looked anything but reassured. He cupped Thor’s face in his hands and drew him closer for a soft kiss.
“Please be careful,” he whispered softly against Thor’s mouth. “And stay close to me, if you can.”
“That is an order I will gladly follow,” Thor murmured against his mouth, kissing him once more before they had to part again, the shouting of the men drawing closer and forcing them apart.
Sif had caught up to them by the time they had reached his grandfather’s cabin, dissolving Thor’s hopes of being able to avoid the argument that was sure to follow. Sighing, Thor exchanged a look with Fandral, Volstagg and Hogun before they stopped, letting the other men walk past them.
Axe in hand, Sif halted in front of them with a stormy expression, a flush on her cheeks from where the icy wind had beaten her face.
“Sif,” Thor started gently, but he could see from the heat in her eyes that it would not be enough.
“I will come with you,” she said, determination hardening her every word. “I want a part in slaying the monster that killed Jane.”
Thor pinched the bridge of his nose, leaving it to Fandral to reply. “You know we cannot let you come, Sif.”
“Let me?!” Sif snapped, her eyes flashing. “I am not one of your wenches, Fandral, for you to command me as you will. I refuse to sit at home and watch my mothers weep, when instead I can be out there avenging my sister’s death!”
Hoping to soothe her temper, Thor reached out to touch his friend. Sif’s shoulders felt small and fragile under his grip and Thor was careful not to squeeze too hard.
“I understand your wish, but you are driven by grief and this will do nothing for Jane. She would not have wanted you in danger,” Thor told her intently. “Stay with my grandfather, let yourself grieve and your head clear. I will tell you everything upon our return.”
“Please, Sif,” Volstagg said. “It would ease all our minds to know you are safe.”
Hogun inclined his head in agreement. “There is little to be gained from this madness. Do as Thor suggests and let yourself recover. Jane was dear to us all and we know how much you loved her.”
“You must know that we worry for you,” Fandral told her softly, his hand joining Thor’s on her shoulder, before gently sweeping loose strands of black hair that had escaped from her customary pony-tail behind her ear.
Sif’s demeanour visibly softened, regret at her previous harsh words shining from her eyes as she clasped Fandral’s hand in hers before he could take it back. “Fandral-”
Fandral waved her words away with a smile and squeezed her hand. “Already forgotten, my dear.”
“Thank you,” Sif’s voice was shaky, her eyes overly bright. “And please take care.”
Thor accepted the tight hug Sif insisted upon, as did the others.
“Worry not,” Volstagg grinned. “We shall return in one piece.”
The way to the mountain was cold and filled with tension. Snow was still falling and Thor drew his red cloak around himself for warmth. Even Fandral was in no mood to talk and Thor was thankful for it. He kept his eyes fixed to Loki’s back from where he was walking next to Laufey in the middle of the group and thought of all the ways he could protect him should things turn ugly.
By the time they had reached the bottom of the mountain, the sun was setting, painting the sky a foreboding red. When they reached the entrance to the cave, night had fallen and the men were lighting torches. Loki gave him an unreadable look as he held his torch against Thor’s to light it and Thor gave him a small smile before following him and the other men into the cave.
No one dared say it, but Thor could see the fear on the men’s faces, could see some of the torches shaking. He tried to stick close to Loki, his other three friends right behind him, but then they came to a fork in the road. Laufey moved his torch in order to cast some light onto the dark path closest to him.
“We will take this one,” he announced. “The other half take the other.”
Thor’s grip on his hammer tightened and he suppressed the urge to exchange an anxious look with Loki. “We should stick together. Our chances would be much better in case of an attack.”
Laufey sneered at him, the men around him already complying with his order. Laufey did not speak often, but when he did, people could usually not find it in them to refuse him. Thor thought them all to be dirty hypocrites and cowards.
“Scared Odinson?” he mocked. “Do you need your father to hold your hand like he has done with everything else?”
Thor gritted his teeth so hard his jaw ached. He would not give in to the taunts, there were more important things at stake than his pride.
“I think we should stick together,” he repeated firmly, undeterred.
“We will never find the beast in time if we do,” Laufey said, addressing the men. “Me, my son and Tyr’s men will take this way. Thor can lead the rest down the other path.”
Thor war shaking with anger. Laufey had managed to claim all the men able to hold their ground in a fight except for Thor and his three friends. They had no other choice than to comply, or the weaker group stood no chance should the wolf attack. In no mood to drag out the argument, Thor gave a jerky nod and, with one last look at Loki, led the men down the path closest to him.
It was even damper in this part of the cave and an icy draft was blowing in from some hidden opening. Bones crunched beneath their feet with every other step and it set Thor’s teeth on edge. Other than the remains of the dead and one or two half-frozen rats that moved sluggishly in the shadows, there was nothing else. With every yard they put behind them, the cave seemed emptier and Thor’s chest was so tight with worry he could barely breathe.
He was just about to order a retreat, when the tunnels where suddenly filled with screams that froze Thor’s blood in his veins, the sound slightly distorted by the time it managed to reach their ears. Without waiting for the others to recover, Thor took off in the direction of the screams, the sound of crunching bones following him and filling him with foreboding.
He almost split his head open on a rock protruding form one of the walls and hastily ducked, before carrying on towards the commotion. He crashed into someone’s back, his pace too quick to stop in time and instinctively grabbed the other person around the waist to keep them from falling. He recognised Loki almost immediately and took the chance to briefly pull him closer with relief.
When he drew his arms away, however, they came away slick with blood. Thor felt as though the breath had been punched from his lungs and he frantically grabbed at Loki to turn him. Loki latched onto him immediately, wide eyed and his hands covered in red that left smudges on Thor’s shirt.
There was blood splattered on his face and neck, his skin ashen beneath it all and Thor, nearly mindless with panic, sought the source of it, but found nothing other than more blood drenching Loki’s black shirt, rendered invisible by the dark colour of the fabric.
“Where are you hurt?” Thor urged, cupping Loki’s pale face with shaking hands and turning the splatters into streaks across his cheeks and jaw.
Loki shook his head without dislodging Thor’s grip, leaving a long-fingered hand-print on Thor’s collarbone where his shirt was not covering his skin, the strings having come undone and leaving the collar gaping open.
“I am unharmed,” Loki told him, voice thin and unsteady, his hold on Thor tightening.
Thor’s hands moved to Loki’s neck, curling gently against the sides and spreading more blood in the process. “The blood?”
“Not mine,” Loki said tightly, his green eyes still wide and deprived of all the usual cold collectedness.
Before he knew it, Thor had drawn Loki against him and crushed their lips together. The metallic taste of blood burst on his tongue as he licked into Loki’s mouth and Thor thought that he should be disgusted, but he could not bring himself to feel anything but this deep, bone-crushing relief that Loki was healthy and whole and was kissing him back fervently.
Lungs near bursting, Thor drew back and their foreheads found each other, sticking together with now drying blood. “What happened?” Thor gasped softly, his hands smoothing back Loki’s hair.
“Hermod,” Loki said quietly, his voice already steadier and his eyes having lost their frantic glimmer. “He is dead.”
“The wolf?” Thor asked, dreading the answer.
Loki gave a jerky nod and Thor opened his mouth to say more, but the clattering of several pairs of feet behind them made them part reluctantly.
Not waiting for the others to reach them, Thor took a few steps deeper into the tunnel. The rest of the men were standing around the unmoving form of the fallen Hermod, his clothes and the skin beneath ripped to shreds. Blood clung to his mouth and had pooled around him like a lake, his eyes fixed on the ceiling in a wide, unseeing stare. A few paces away lay the unmoving form of a mountain wolf.
Thor stared at it.
“Is that it?” he asked no one in particular, taking in the size of the wolf’s paws compared to the vicious injuries on Hermod’s body.
“It is,” Tyr answered, seemingly torn between grief and joy. “We killed the beast! Asgard is finally free of it!”
Thor eyed the dead wolf doubtfully, but did not speak again. When he saw Loki, the worst of the blood had been cleaned away and he briefly brushed against Thor as he passed him. Thor wordlessly joined the other men and helped carrying Hermod, watching Laufey and one of the other woodcutters shouldering the wolf.
The moon was blood red above them and by the time they reached the village and it was only a few more hours until dawn. It was even colder than yesterday and Thor could see his breath in front of his face with every exhale. His mother welcomed him with open arms and hot stew, taking his cloak from him and handing him bread as he sat down to eat.
She did not press him for details and Thor was grateful for it. He finished his food and then simply got up, kissed her cheek and fell into bed.
Despite his late night, Thor’s sleep was restless and he was listlessly nursing a cup of tea before the sun had risen. He knew that the men must have gathered in the tavern once again, but felt no desire to listen to them brag about their kill.
Thor should have been overjoyed, but somehow did not trust this sudden, supposed solution to all their problems. Would a beast as clever as the wolf simply let itself be slain by a few idiots from the village it had so long tormented?
Deciding that there would be little to no point in opening the smithy today, Thor grabbed his cloak and made his way to his grandfather’s cabin. More snow had fallen overnight and his boots were submerged to the ankle, his red cloak dragging behind him like a river of blood.
It was Sif who opened the door for him and he squeezed her hand as he walked past her into the room. His grandfather was seated in his usual place in front of the fire, an open book in his lap.
“What happened last night?” Sif asked him as she helped him out of his cloak and put it over a chair. “I heard shouting upon your return and men claiming that they had killed the wolf.”
Thor sighed and sank in the chair opposite his grandfather’s, feeling tired and worn around the edges like a frayed blanket. Sif seated herself on the rug in front of the fire, eyes alight with curiosity.
“They think they have,” Thor said, his voice filled with doubt. “And before that, it took Hermod.”
Sif hugged her knees to her chest and reached for his hand. He gave it to her along with another comforting squeeze. “The poor soul,” she whispered. “But, you seem doubtful. Did you not see the beast slain?”
Thor shook his head and glanced at his grandfather’s serene face. “I saw it,” he confirmed. “Though I am unsure whether it is the beast they have slain or simply a wolf that happened upon us at the time.”
His grandfather leaned forwards in his chair, gently closing the book and putting it on the window sill next to him. “It is unlikely that it is indeed the beast,” he nodded gravely. “Tell me, Thor, what did it look like?”
Thor shrugged his tense shoulders and rubbed a big hand over his eyes. “Like any common grey wolf.”
His grandfather shook his head. “Then they have been blinded by their own foolishness. The wolf has outsmarted them once more.”
Silence fell for long moments after that and the knot of foreboding Thor had been feeling ever since last night, was once again growing in his chest.
“Father Fafnir is to arrive today,” Sif finally broke the silence. “Do you think he will be able to aid us?”
His grandfather folded his hands in his lap and sighed. “I shall hope so,” he said softly. “He claims to be experienced in the matter and the village needs any help it is able to get.”
By the time the village had gathered to welcome Father Fafnir in the main square, Thor’s anxiety had only grown. He joined his parents and instinctively cast his gaze about for Loki’s familiar form. He found him at the opposite side, standing pale and drawn next to his father, looking as grave and troubled as Thor had ever seen him. He cursed Laufey thrice over.
Father Fafnir arrived in a flurry of people, several of his men on horseback surrounding his pompous carriage. Thor clenched his teeth in annoyance at the dramatic entrance and the overstated way in which the carriage doors were flung open only furthered his aggravation.
Father Fafnir was not tall, but his frame was big and broad and there was nothing soft about his person. His hair and beard were red and wild, a far cry form Volstagg’s mostly well-kept mane, hiding most of his face with only two sharp eyes the colour of dead leaves visible beneath all the hair.
His seemingly unkempt appearance contrasted sharply with the fine, and undoubtedly expensive, clothes that he wore. His robe was long and the hem and sleeves featured a complicated pattern, golden thread weaved into the purple silk and enhanced by the odd gem here and there. He looked to Thor like a man that sought to impress with his wealth, rather than deeds, and this additional notion did nothing at all to endear him to Thor.
Fafnir swept his eyes over the waiting villagers, before coming to rest upon Heimdall, who bowed slightly in greeting. Before any more words could be exchanged, however, Tyr had appeared in their midst waving the wolf’s head triumphantly where he had mounted it on a spike.
“Welcome,” he crowed cheerfully, all but thrusting the wolf’s head into Fafnir’s face. “You have just arrived in time for our feast! As you can see, the werewolf has been dealt with!”
Father Fafnir eyed him with barely disguised disdain in his eyes, before turning to the rest of the villagers. “That is not a werewolf.”
His voice was surprisingly smooth, almost soft and perfect for manipulation, not the rough growl Thor had expected. Clenching his fists, Thor watched as Tyr’s face turned an ugly shade of red in anger as he pointed an outraged finger in Fafnir’s direction.
“We have been living with this beast for generations! We know what we are dealing with!”
Fafnir shook his head at him, his eyes full of arrogant pity. “You know not what you are dealing with.”
Silence followed his words and Fafnir took the chance to fix them all with his gaze as he planned his next attack. He turned in a calculated half-circle, his expensive robes flying in a graceful arch around his legs, his arms spreading into a gesture of welcome to appeal to the people around him as he re-addressed the villagers.
“I was like you once,” he told them in his smooth voice, his pronunciation crisp in a way that spoke of a long time spent in the city. “I had a brother and mother that I loved dearly and the man she had married after my father’s untimely passing was a good parent to us and loved us as his own. My family and I lived in a village very similar to yours, and just like your village, ours was plagued by a werewolf.”
The silence had changed now, becoming hushed and vibrating with curiosity and suspense. Thor had bitten the inside of his cheek raw with the force to keep himself from speaking and his fists were clenched tight, enough to whiten his knuckles. It was already plain to see that Father Fafnir was successfully worming his way into their midst, feeding them what he wanted them to believe and creating a picture where he would be revealed to be their saviour to be worshipped for his wisdom.
“Me and my friends got drunk one day,” Father Fafnir continued, drawing the villagers deeper into his tale. “We were foolish and decided to hunt it. It never occurred to us that we might actually find it, but find it we did.”
“It killed most of us, ripped my best friend in half, and when it was upon me I managed to hack off one of its paws. I took it home, where I found my father with a bloody rag wrapped around his wrist,” gasps were heard in the crowd and Fafnir continued. “When I opened my sack, the werewolf’s paw - was gone! And in its place, was this.”
With a motion of his hand, Fafnir bid one of his men to open the casket he was holding and when he complied, several cries were heard in the crowd, for in it, lay a human hand.
Having had enough of the dramatics, Thor turned on his heel and left the crowd behind, deciding that opening his shop was still preferable to this foolishness. Thor did not doubt that Father Fafnir was experienced in the matter, but the way he bore himself made Thor want to punch him in the face. They had enough arrogant idiots in this village, they hardly needed another one.
Despite Father Fafnir’s tale, the entire village had gathered for the feast, the beat of the drums vibrating beneath Thor’s feet as he accompanied Fandral, Volstagg and Hogun alongside Sif to the main square. They had all agreed that some distraction would be good for Sif to take her mind off the still fresh pain of her sister’s passing. Furthermore, there was a good chance that Thor would be able to steal a few moments with Loki and there were far too few as it was.
Thor let himself be roped into dancing with his friends and accepted the mead Volstagg thrust into his hands.
“Lighten up, Thor,” he crowed into his ear, loud enough to make it ring. “You are so glum of late, my friend!”
Fandral draped himself against Thor’s side, slinging an arm over his shoulders and playfully bumping their hips together. “It is the sorrow of looove,” he sing-songed, a grin splitting his face. “Tell me, Thor, do you intend to die a virgin?”
Thor batted at him, pushing his lean frame away and into Volstagg. “I love Loki.”
Fandral tutted at him. “And so you shall, if it pleases you,” he said cheerfully. “But can you not enjoy yourself while you wait for him? I worry for you, my friend.”
“You need not worry, Fandral,” Thor gritted out between his teeth. “I shall live just fine without throwing myself at every breathing creature in my vicinity.”
Fandral put a hand on his chest and opened his mouth in mock-outrage. “You wound me, Thor. It hardly requires any throwing, everyone wants me! And, if you wish it,” Fandral was suddenly close again, one of his hands sliding up his chest and into his hair, while the other grabbed his hip to pull him flush against him. “I would gladly introduce you to the pleasures of intimacy.”
Thor had not the time to deliver a well-deserved smack to whatever part of Fandral he was able to reach first, because the hair on the back of his neck was suddenly standing and he ignored his friend in favour of scanning the crowd. And there, but a few yards away, stood Loki, a scowl so fierce tightening his face that he seemed more than ever like an ethereal being. His green eyes were ablaze and Thor would not have been surprised if Fandral had burst into flames in his arms, so intense was the impact.
Becoming aware of what they must look like, Thor hastily pushed Fandral away and glared at his friend. Fandral, however, seemed unfazed and merely winked at him.
“You can thank me later,” he told him, practically radiating mischievousness.
Thor frowned, confused. “Thank you?”
Fandral laughed at him and patted his shoulder. “I would follow quickly if I were you. He looked fit to murder someone.”
Swivelling on the spot, Thor sought Loki with his gaze and only just saw the tip of his green cloak vanish in the shadows. Thrusting the tankard of mead he was still holding into Fandral’s hands, Thor glared at him one last time, before taking off after Loki.
The alley between the two houses was dark, the light from the feast not enough to reach it. A cold breeze made Thor shiver and pull his red cloak tighter around himself. The snow was crunching beneath his boots, sounding louder with every step as the voices and music from the feast faded behind him. Rounding the house to his right, Thor was completely unprepared for the impact.
Loki crashed into him and despite his lithe frame made Thor stumble and fall back against the wall of the stable behind him. Sharp edges dug into his back and his head made a dull sound as it connected with the wood. Not giving him a moment’s respite, Loki took his mouth in a fierce kiss, his smaller body stretching to overcome their height difference. Thor’s body welcomed him before his mind had fully caught up, his lips parting on a soft moan and his arms wrapping around Loki’s slim waist as he slumped against the wall to make himself shorter.
Loki’s hands tightened in his hair as he drew Thor closer, deeper into the kiss, his sharp teeth nipping at his lips and setting every nerve in his body aflame. Loki’s tongue was slick and hot in his mouth, almost vicious in its attack and robbing Thor of any attempt at coherency. Lungs tight with the need for oxygen and in desperate need of a respite before he lost his mind, Thor moved his head to draw in a panting breath. Unable to part with Loki completely, he pressed several soothing kisses against his cheek, then his jaw, their bodies still pressed together.
Loki’s lips found his throat, his tongue licking the point where Thor’s pulse was strongest, before pressing his teeth against the tender flesh and sucking it into his mouth. Thor arched his neck into the pain, his fingers sliding into Loki’s raven hair as he cradled his head and urged him closer. The knowledge that there would be a mark made him burn all the more, his stomach twisting with want and his cock so hard that it was almost painful.
When Loki finally released his throat, the skin there felt raw and bruised and Thor had the sick urge to press against it with his fingers, to make it ache even more, knowing that he belonged to Loki. That there could be no doubt about it any longer, now that there was a visible, tingling mark right where everyone could see.
Opening his eyes that he did not remember closing, Thor found Loki’s intense green stare on him, looking at him for the first time since vanishing into the shadows. He was so close that the white clouds of their panting breath mixed together between them and Thor could not help leaning closer and touching their lips together once more. Loki allowed it, but the kiss was fleeting and so gentle that it almost felt as though it was only his breath after all, before he drew back again.
“Fandral will have to learn not to touch what belongs to me,” Loki murmured darkly, the possessiveness in his tone making Thor shiver.
Leaning close to nuzzle Loki’s cheek, Thor brushed a soothing kiss to his temple. “He meant no harm. It was merely intended as a joke.”
“I am not laughing,” Loki’s hand cupped the back of his neck, his thumb caressing the still throbbing bruise on Thor’s neck. “And you did not look as though you objected.”
Thor put his own hand over Loki’s, his blunter fingers sliding in-between longer, graceful ones, before suddenly pressing them both down on the mark, hard enough to make pain burst under his skin and his eyes sting.
“You still do not believe in my devotion?” Thor growled, pressing down even harder. “After all these years that you have left me in the dark, while I was waiting for you? The years where you have told me nothing and showed more coldness than warmth towards me?”
Loki’s eyes flashed. “Is that why you seek comfort elsewhere?” he hissed. “Tell me, Thor, is he as good as they say?”
Having reached the end of his patience, Thor gave a sound of frustration and in one sleek manoeuvre reversed their positions, pressing Loki between himself and the wooden wall, and slamming a fist into the wood right next to Loki’s head. The old wood groaned under the assault and Thor could feel several splinters coming loose and burying themselves in his hand. He paid it no heed.
“Why do you always twist the words in my mouth?” Thor snapped, fighting to keep his voice down. “Why is it that you never seem to listen to a word I say, but only to your own?”
Loki’s hands were suddenly gentle, running over his chest and brushing the hair form his face before cupping his jaw.
“I do listen,” he said softly. “And I want to believe them.”
Thor breathed in deeply and curled his fingers around Loki’s wrists, feeling the silver bracelets beneath. “Then why do you not?”
“Because you are so good,” he sounded almost helpless and it made Thor’s heart ache. “And I am everything but and I cannot believe you can love me.”
Unable to bear the look on Loki’s face any longer, Thor released his wrists and brushed gentle fingers over his face, tracing away the upset frown on his forehead and leaning in to kiss the pained curve of his mouth. But Loki stopped him by planting his hands on his chest.
“I am wrong for you, Thor,” Loki said, his voice shaky and his eyes overly bright. He looked so very vulnerable that all Thor wanted was to hold him and never let go.
Ignoring the restraining hands on his chest, Thor leaned in anyway and Loki’s forced resistance crumbled away to nothing as he tilted his head to accept the kiss.
“I care not,” Thor murmured against his lips, his hands caressing Loki’s sides and coming to rest on his hips to pull him impossibly closer. “You told me to remember the promise I made you, and I have. Every day since that day in your room. The only life I want is with you and I will wait as long as it takes.”
Loki’s eyes were still bright, but the anger was gone, replaced by a softness Thor craved but did not get to see as often as he would like. Wrapping long arms around his neck, Loki brushed another whisper-soft kiss against his lips.
“I did not mean to be cold,” he murmured. “All I ever wished was for you to be mine. And I yours.”
Thor kissed him deeply, his hands sliding down to cup lean thighs and lifting Loki into his arms. Loki accommodated him easily, wrapping his long legs around his waist and tightening his hold on Thor’s shoulders.
“I am yours,” Thor swore, voice hoarse with desire as he pressed Loki further against the wall. “I have always been yours.”
Loki sealed his mouth with another fervent kiss, wrapping even tighter around his body, tearing a moan from Thor’s throat and making him thoughtlessly thrust his hips in search for friction. He gave a surprised gasp when he felt Loki’s hot hardness against his own, before repeating the gesture. There was no fineness to his movement, only the mindless urge to hear more of the sounds Loki was making against his mouth and to have pleasure bursting behind his eyelids and through every nerve ending in his body.
“Want you,” Thor panted feverishly, lips sliding to Loki’s throat to lick at the alleviated pulse he could feel under his skin. “Have wanted you for so long.”
Loki tilted his head back, baring his neck and cradling Thor’s head close to his skin as he pushed back against him, rolling his hips in a way that had Thor biting the flesh beneath his lips to stifle his moans and with the desire to leave a mark of his own.
“Then have me,” Loki moaned, his fingers threading into Thor’s hair tightly enough to sting. “Right here, right now. I am yours.”
Thor smashed their mouths together, his fingers digging into Loki’s flesh through his trousers as he cupped his arse in his big hands and shoved their hips together hard enough to make the wood behind Loki’s back creak and shudder.
“What you do to me,” Thor mumbled between harsh kisses, mindless with pleasure. “One of these days you will drive me to madness.”
Loki tugged at the hair still in his grasp, making Thor moan and bare his neck. Loki bit at his jaw, then at the lobe of his ear, before pressing hot lips against it. “I care not in which state you are,” he whispered hotly. “Only that you belong to me.”
Unable to form even one clear thought, Thor only took enough time to reassure himself that Loki was secure within his grasp, before all but crashing through the door of the granary. Disengaging one arm, Thor used it to break their fall as he tumbled them into the nearest heap of hay. Loki arched under him, before easily switching their positions once more, his knees pressing into Thor’s sides as he ground down against him. Thor clutched at his hips, his fingers digging into the coarse material of his trousers and the flesh underneath as he bucked up to increase the friction between them.
Dragging his teeth down Thor’s neck, Loki closed his lips around the bruise there, sucking the tender flesh back into his mouth, before soothing it with his tongue. Loki’s nimble fingers found their way beneath his clothing, one hand caressing the soft skin beneath his navel while the other slid between buttons and undid Thor’s trousers in but a few, quick movements.
“No one is allowed to touch you,” he continued drawing back to look at Thor with burning eyes that were darker than Thor had ever seen them, a cool hand finally closing around Thor and making him gasp helplessly. “But me.”
Thor’s cock was already slick with desire, impossibly hard in Loki’s possessive hand as long fingers stoked him firmly, making Thor feel light-headed with pleasure. He writhed, his hands digging harshly enough into Loki’s thighs to leave bruises as Thor thrust up against him and further into that perfect grip. His clothes felt rough against his sweat-slick skin and Thor wished them gone, wished for Loki naked and pale and soft against him.
Loki’s voice was smooth and low when he continued speaking, making Thor feel as though he was aflame. “And if anyone so much as harms a hair on your head, I will see to it that it is the last thing they do. Because no one…” another rough jerk of Loki’s hand and Thor bucked sharply, wishing he could crawl inside of him.
Loki leaned closer, his words back to a whisper and his lips brushing against Thor’s with every word. “No one is allowed to hurt you,” he paused to lick at Thor’s lips, making him let loose an undignified sound. “But me.”
The pain was sudden and intense, making Thor’s eyes sting with tears at the same time as tearing a moan form his throat that was almost as painful. Thor’s vision whitened just as the taste of copper burst on his tongue and filled his mouth, hot wetness spilling between them. Loki soothed the cut he had made with his teeth with gentle sweeps of his tongue, lapping up the blood as Thor whimpered through waves of pleasure.
When his head finally stopped spinning, Thor felt as though his bones had melted, his lungs still tight as he panted for breath. Loki pressed hot lips against his throat and when he thrust against him, Thor could feel his neglected cock pressing hard and hot into his stomach.
Thor reached between them with fumbling fingers, tugging none too gently on the front of Loki’s pants, greedy for the feeling of his skin against his own. Loki sighed when his undoubtedly aching flesh was finally freed and nuzzled Thor’s cheek. Moving his hands from Loki’s firm thighs to his arse, Thor kissed him deeply, cupping it in his palms as he helped Loki thrust against him, his hardness dragging through the slick mess on Thor’s stomach, his moans muffled between their lips.
It took no more than a handful of thrusts, before Loki was tearing his mouth away and burying his head against Thor’s throat, muffling his groans against Thor’s skin. Thor cradled him close, holding him tightly as Loki shuddered to pieces in his arms and added to the wetness between them.
Closing his eyes, Thor thought he must have dozed off for a while, because when he next opened his eyes Loki was curled against his side, one leg thrown over Thor’s hips. One of his cold hands was stroking Thor’s chest beneath his rumpled shirt, running his long fingers from his navel to his collarbone. Thor trapped it against his chest on its way back down, rubbing it gently with his own through the coarse material in an attempt to warm it. Loki’s lips quirked into a smile, his leg hitching up higher from where it rested over his hip and curling tighter around him to draw him closer for a kiss.
Despite the gentleness, Thor winced slightly at the sting, the cut on his lower lip still fresh and tender. Loki stroked apologetic caresses into his chest, drawing his lips away from his mouth and instead pressing several soft kisses to his cheek and forehead.
Thor held him closer, wishing they could stay like this forever and never have to return to that wretched village.
“I wish we could leave this place,” Thor whispered into Loki’s hair.
Loki did not answer, merely tightened his grip on him and held him for as long as he could. Thor knew it would not be long enough, that far too soon they would have to part again.
When he stumbled back to the festivities, Volstagg was leaning against Hogun, who was drunk enough that his customary serious face had transformed into something resembling amusement. Fandral was just returning from dancing with Sif, kissing her hand before letting it go and clapping Thor on the shoulder.
“Thor, my friend!” he bellowed with a grin. “We thought we had lost you!”
Thor merely rolled his eyes and accepted the tankard of mead that Volstagg pushed into his direction. “Seems Loki was quite thorough in claiming back what he thought you’d taken,” he all but giggled into his beard.
Hogun visibly suppressed a smile of his own and Fandral squinted at Thor to get a closer look. Thor, feeling slightly self-conscious, ran his tongue over the still sore cut on his lower lip and tugged at the hem of his shirt as if having to conceal the evidence of their earlier pleasure.
Fandral whistled and playfully tugged at his collar to further expose the mark on his neck. Thor batted his hand away, but there was no stopping them now.
“I would not have thought Loki to be so brazen,” Fandral crowed, laughing. “But they do say still waters run deep!”
Volstagg boomed out a laugh, spilling some of his mead in the process and Hogun’s eyes all but shone with mirth. “It does look as though he meant to eat you,” he commented solemnly and Thor wondered whether he had yet to crack a rib in the effort not to join in the laughter.
Unable to fight it down, Thor felt his cheeks heating, not only from his friends’ teasing, but also from the memory of what Loki and he had been doing not too long ago.
Sif swatted Fandral over the head and glared at all of them. “Have you nothing better to talk about? Come Thor, let us leave these drunken idiots to themselves with their crude jokes.”
Not waiting for an answer, Sif grabbed Thor’s hand and dragged him into the direction of the dancers. Thor followed gladly, unwilling to endure more teasing and unsure whether he was able to hide a possible reaction when recalling what Loki had done to him.
“So,” Sif smiled at him as they swayed to the beat of the drums. “How was it?”
“Sif!” Thor said, scandalised as he spun her before drawing her back against him. “I thought you meant to save me!”
Sif laughed and obediently followed Thor’s lead as he turned them both to reverse their positions. “I meant to save you from the teasing. I never said I did not want to hear the details.”
“There are no details to tell,” Thor grumbled, leading them into a swerve to the right to avoid another drunk couple from crashing into them.
Sif grinned at him and it was both a relief and joy to see her happy once more. “Is that so?” she teased, wrapping her arms around his neck to be lifted in a swirl and wisely waiting for her feet to be back on the ground before uttering her next words. “Where did he ravish you, then?”
Thor blushed scarlet, feeling his face heat as though he was leaning over one of his fires at the smithy. “Sif!” he bellowed, forgetting all about their dance. “Must you be so forthright?”
Sif grabbed his hands and dragged him closer once more, reluctantly forcing him back into the rhythm of the dance. “I do believe subtlety is not a trait either of us possess,” she informed him cheerfully. “So will you tell me where it was you vanished to?”
Thor sighed in defeat. “You know that soft hay in the granary?”
Sif’s eyes shone and she was just about to pester him further when they heard a growl from the shadows to their right. Thor instinctively drew Sif closer to shield her with his body, while at the same time squinting and trying to get a closer look at whatever was hiding in the shadows. He deeply regretted not having brought his hammer, small difference though it would have made, at least he would not have felt as vulnerable as he did now, unarmed and exposed.
Without another warning, a huge black form suddenly burst out of the dark, wood splintering around it as it destroyed whatever it had hid behind and leapt into the middle of the square, taking down a villager, then another. The music cut abruptly and screams filled the air as the villagers scattered like cattle, fleeing in all directions in the search of cover.
“Run!” Father Fafnir’s usually smooth voice had risen to a roar, making himself be heard over the cacophony of fearful shrieks. “Get to the church!”
Silver glinted in the firelight as Fafnir and his men drew their weapons, the wolf reduced to a disembodied growling, having vanished back into the shadows and having left a trail of dead villagers in its wake. Thor whipped his head this way and that, looking for both signs of the wolf as well as frantically checking the crowd for Loki’s familiar form. He did not see him.
A hand clasped his arm and he turned to see Hogun, Fandral and Volstagg right behind him.
“We need to move,” Hogun said, even as he scanned the area. “Quickly.”
Fandral was already urging Sif forward and Hogun pushed at Thor’s back in an attempt to urge him into action. Thor fought against the insistent pushing, his gaze once again darting across the square in the search for Loki, or even Laufey’s huge form, but smoke lay in the air and Fafnir’s men were everywhere, blocking anything else form view.
“Where is Loki?” he asked, hoping that one of his friends had seen him.
“I am certain he is safe,” Fandral said, sounding unconvinced even as he urged them to move faster. “We need to go, Thor. Now.”
His friends forcefully dragged him along and Thor had little choice but to let them. A snarl from above made Thor stumble in surprise and it was Sif that rushed back the few steps that was now separating him from the others. She steadied him, her eyes wide as she looked up and tried to locate the wolf. Thor followed her gaze, his heart beating wildly and nearly stopped as he saw a quick flash of sleek black on one of the balconies.
Thor tightened his grip on Sif’s hand and dragged her with him into the shadow of one of the houses. Panting heavily, they leaned against the wood and watched father Fafnir shout with rage. Several bodies lay strewn across the snowy ground and Sif whimpered, hiding her face against Thor’s shoulder at the ugly reminder of her sister’s cruel death.
Seemingly distracted by a noise, Fafnir suddenly whipped his head around and thrust his sword into the direction it had come from, shouting for his men to pursue whatever it was.
Thor breathed a sigh of relief, but it stuck in his throat when he heard the wood creaking above them accompanied by a deep rumbling growl. Whirling around, Thor grabbed Sif’s arm and dragged her away from the house, hoping that the wolf would not follow them further into the alley. His hope was for naught.
It took the massive beast no more then two leaps to land in front of them, teeth bared and eyes that were glowing in the dim light of the moon. Up close, the wolf looked even more frightening. It’s coat was dark as night and thick to ward off the cold, its paws big enough to crush Thor’s chest and a long, bushy tail swayed lazily with every one of its moves. Thor backed up a step, moving in front of Sif in the hope of hiding her behind his broad form. The wolf, however, seemed to have his entire focus on Thor as it was and showed no indication of even having acknowledged Sif.
The beast’s head was level with Thor’s own and when it moved in even closer, he could feel it’s foul, hot breath against his face.
“You cannot escape from me,” it said suddenly, voice low and rumbling, its nose inches from Thor’s cheek.
Thor inhaled a sharp gasp and stumbled back against Sif, staring at the beast in horror. It had not moved its lips, but Thor had understood every word.
“You can speak?” he gasped, grateful for Sif’s hands clutching his arms to anchor him to the here and now or he would be sure to have lost his mind. “How? How do you do this?”
The wolf breathed more of its hot breath onto his face and Thor’s stomach turned at the smell, his throat tight with the urge to be sick. “You understand me, that is all that matters, Thor.”
Thor felt his knees weaken beneath him, his legs shaking, but he refused to show weakness. “How do you know my name?” he demanded. “What is it you want?”
Sif was trembling behind him, her fingers digging into his arms. “What are you doing?” she whispered shakily.
The wolf snarled at her and she whimpered and fell silent once more and the beast turned its attention back to Thor. “I know you well,” it all but whispered. “You dream of leaving this village. I can take you away.”
Thor raised his chin and held his ground, determined not to show his fear. “Why?” he asked, bewildered. “Why me?”
“There is no one else who can give me what I want,” the wolf growled and Thor could see a flash of its sharp teeth.
Clenching his hands into fists, Thor felt his nails dig into his palm. There was nothing he could use as a weapon, nowhere they could seek shelter that the wolf would be unable to follow. His shoulders ached with the tension of keeping his back straight and his feet rooted to the ground. He would not back away.
“No,” he told it firmly, looking right into the beast’s luminous eyes. “No, I will not go with you.”
Yellowing teeth were bared in a snarl and Thor fought down a wince, unwilling to show the terror he was feeling at seeing them exposed once more. It would take no more than a single bite to kill him, one lashing out of a huge paw to slice him open. Just as it had with Jane and all the others.
“Then the streets will run red with blood,” the wolf growled into his face, foul breath turning into thick clouds of white in the freezing night air. “Starting with hers.”
Thor’s eyes narrowed in anger, his temper flaring even in the face of danger. “I will not let you!”
Something glinted in the beast’s eyes and Thor thought he could detect arrogance in the way it tilted its head.
“You can do nothing to save these people,” the wolf looked as though it was sneering, completely sure of itself. “Except for making me the promise I want.”
Thor felt helpless, helpless and completely out of his depth and he hated it. There was nothing he could do. He was no man of words, that had always been Loki’s forte and the only thing he longed for at this moment was to punch the beast, if only to satisfy his own need for violence. But it was a foolish and useless risk to take and it would leave them even further at the wolf’s mercy.
If he gave in to his childish urge and was injured or killed, then Sif would be left alone and unprotected. If he could save her, if he could save all of them, with a mere promise, then promise he would.
“You will not harm anyone else?” he asked, throat dry and tight with dread at the decision he was facing.
The wolf regarded him for a moment, before his head tilted again in a motion that Thor could not interpret. “You have my word.”
Thor was unsure how much the word of a beast was worth, but he was out of choices. He did not know what the beast wanted with him, but the knowledge that he could save his friends, his family, Loki… it had to be enough.
His neck felt stiff, every one of his muscles protesting as he bent it in a show of acquiescence. “Then I shall go with you.”
The wolf’s sneer was back, its tail like a whip as it moved from one side to the other, white snow clinging to its dark fur. “A wise decision,” it rumbled. “I will come for you before the last full moon wanes.”
Thor’s teeth were clenched so tightly that his jaw ached, but it was enough to keep himself from cursing the beast.
A commotion from the mouth of the alley made all their heads turn and the wolf’s stance tensed, his keen eyes obviously already sighted what was happening.
Turning back to Thor, it gave him one last look. “Remember your promise to me,” it said with one last snarl, before bolting, evading one of the silver arrows that Fafnir’s men fired at him and vanished in the darkness.
Fafnir appeared a moment later, sword held high and glaring in the direction where the beast had vanished, obviously infuriated at its escape. His men looked as stone-faced as ever, filling the small passage of the alley behind him and making Thor feel just as trapped as when the wolf had stood before him.
Sif emerged from behind Thor’s back and looked at Thor with frightened eyes. He could tell that she wanted to ask him what had happened, but safely did not say anything where Fafnir or his men could hear. Thor breathed a sigh of relief, grateful for his friend’s loyalty.
A rustling sound to their left made everyone turn their heads to see one of the village girls break forth from where she had been hiding. Her face was pale as death and she was trembling, staring at Thor with wide eyes. Dread filled his stomach like lead.
“He spoke to it!” she cried, an edge of hysteria to her voice as she pointed a shaky finger at Thor. “He talked to the wolf! I saw it with my own eyes!”
Sif clutched his hand and Thor did his best to give her a reassuring squeeze. Father Fafnir’s eyes glinted in the faint light as he turned his eyes to Thor, taking a step towards him.
“Is that true?” Fafnir asked, turning abruptly to Sif and staring at her with hard eyes.
Sif’s eyes widened, but she did not answer, only held Thor’s hand tighter.
“It is!” the girl shrieked from across them. “I saw him do it! I always knew there was something strange about him! That devilish cloak he always wears and he keeps company with Loki - everyone knows there is something wrong with Laufey’s son!”
Sif glared at the other girl, ready to spring to Thor’s defence, but Fafnir did not let her. “Do you deny these accusations?”
Unwilling to draw this out any longer then necessary and not wanting to drag Sif into this with him, Thor lifted his chin and straightened his shoulders. “I do not deny it.”
Sif looked at him in alarm and Thor did his best to look reassuring.
“And what was the nature of this conversation?” Fafnir asked, voice smooth and slimy, making Thor’s skin crawl.
“It promised to leave the village and its people in peace if I go with it.”
Fafnir’s lips twitched as though he was suppressing a sneer. He bore astounding resemblance to the wolf at that moment, looking as though he had caught prey that he had been chasing and was now finally able to devour it. Not, Thor suspected, before having had his fill of playing with it.
“The wolf is someone in this village who wants you, Thor,” Fafnir said darkly, all but circling him. “Do you know who it is? And I would think very hard if I were you.”
Thor’s lips thinned in anger, the cut on his lip stinging and helping to ground him. “I do not know.”
It seemed to be the answer Fafnir had expected, his eyes glinting with triumph. Thor wished to spit in his face.
“Maybe some time in the cells will loosen your tongue,” Fafnir all but purred at him. “Lock him up.”
Immediately, Fafnir’s men surrounded him, pushing Sif aside and grabbing harshly at his arms, wrenching them behind his back. Thor glared at them, but did not fight against their hold even as his muscles protested at the rough treatment.
“No!” Sif cried, looking for a way back to his side. “You cannot do this!”
Fafnir spared her a glance. “Thor Odinson will be tried for sorcery and fraternisation with the enemy. You would do best not to defend a traitor or one might think you are in league with him as well.”
Sif glared at Fafnir, looking ready to claw the yes from his head and Thor hastily interfered, before she could say anything more and be thrown into the cells alongside him.
“Worry not, Sif,” he told his friend, sounding surer of himself than he was. “I shall be fine. Go home and rest.”
Sif did not speak again, though her eyes burned with hate as she watched as Thor was dragged away.
The cell was cold and damp, both creeping up through Thor’s clothes and into his bones. He was grateful for every little piece of rotten hay that covered the dirty ground and had huddled into a corner in the hope of conserving some warmth. They had taken his red cloak and he was left in just his coarse shirt and pants, not even trying to suppress his shivers.
A guard had been placed at the entrance to the small, old stable that had been modified to function as a prison, but he had fallen asleep an hour ago, wrapped in furs and with his belly full of a hot meal and mead. His parents had been and gone, having come to see him right after his imprisonment. Sif had alerted them of the situation and they had come immediately, his father roaring at the guards and Father Fafnir while his mother had held his hand through the wooden bars, whispering reassurances even though her eyes were filled with tears. She had tried to plead with the guard to give him at least a blanket, but they had refused her, probably mostly out of spite at his father’s behaviour.
Now, hours later, the grey light of dawn had started to creep across the sky. Thor could barely see it form the tiny window near the ceiling, his only indication of how much time had passed. Most of his body was numb by now, including his fingers even though he had tucked them under his arms in an effort to keep them warm.
Thor was so tired that his eyes had closed of their own volition, though sleep eluded him, his trembling making it impossible to find rest. That was probably why he was not aware of another presence, until it was right in front of him.
“Thor,” a familiar voice called him softly as a warm hand cupped his face.
Thor’s eyes snapped open and he startled, but another hand joined the other and was quick to reassure him. “Shhh, it is only I.”
Trying to blink the drowsiness from his eyes, Thor was already reaching out with stiff fingers, having recognised the voice almost immediately. “Loki…”
Delicious warmth wrapped around him and it took Thor a moment to realise that it was a thick fur blanket along with Loki’s arms as he was drawn against his slender body. Thor sank into him without thought, burying his cold face into Loki’s neck and seeking for a place to warm his stiff hands. They found their way beneath Loki’s shirt and to the small of his back and even though Loki inhaled sharply in discomfort, he did not draw away, instead tightened his hold on Thor.
It was only when feeling returned to his body and his muscles had started to thaw that Thor became fully aware of the situation.
“How did you get in here?” he asked, drawing back far enough to stare at Loki and found his face pale and drawn.
Loki gently brushed the hair from Thor’s face. “I drugged the guard and stole his key.”
Thor’s eyes widened. “The food?”
Loki smirked darkly. “Just so,” he confirmed. “It should last a while, but we do not have a lot of time.”
“Time for what?” Thor asked, completely bewildered.
Having trouble following Loki’s sharp mind at the best of times, hours of nearly freezing to death made the task all but impossible.
“Do you trust me?” Loki asked, eyes intent and searching.
“You know I do.”
Loki gave him a fleeting smile, before reaching behind him to retrieve a satchel Thor had not noticed before. It made a soft clinking sound when it touched the ground between them and when Loki opened it, Thor knew why. It was filled with a variety of his own tools from the smithy, the collection appearing random and put together by someone who had no knowledge of that kind of work.
“I was unsure which tools you would require, so I tried to take something of everything,” Loki told him, regarding the contents of the bag with doubt.
“Require for what?” Thor asked, still unable to follow.
Loki took a deep breath, before extending his arms. The sleeves rode up his arms and gave Thor a free view of his twin bracelets, the skin, if possible, looking even more irritated than usual. Thor gently took the offered wrists and Loki sighed with relief as Thor’s still cold fingers wrapped around the hot, swollen flesh.
“I need you to take these off,” Loki said softly and Thor could feel him shaking.
Gently stroking the inflamed skin, Thor looked at Loki’s pale, drawn face and thought that he had never understood him less than in this moment. “Why now?” he asked softly. “Why change your mind after refusing my offer of help all these years?”
Loki diverted his gaze and Thor wished for nothing more than to ease the troubles weighing so heavily on him.
“I thought,” he started haltingly, every word sounding carefully chosen. “That I needed them. That they fulfilled a purpose. But now I am not so sure. I feel as though…they restrict me. I wish them gone because I need to know what will happen.”
Not understanding a thing, Thor simply looked at Loki in concern. There was something about his strange mood that alarmed Thor in a way that made the little hairs on his arms stand on end.
“Please,” Loki whispered when Thor failed to answer, his green eyes looking at him imploringly. “Will you do this for me?”
Unable to resist, Thor leaned in to brush a whisper soft kiss against Loki’s chapped lips and was now close enough to feel the heat of a fever radiating off Loki’s skin. No wonder he had felt so deliciously hot to Thor when he had held him. He feared for Loki, he always did, and his current state of mind seemed anything but stable, but Thor had yet to find the will to ever refuse him.
Drawing back, Thor transferred his hold to only one of Loki’s wrists and brought it closer to his face in order to inspect it. “Silver is a soft metal, it will give easily,” he said, gently turning over Loki’s hand and trying to find any indication of how the bracelets had been applied. “But it will hurt.”
“I do not mind if it is you that hurts me,” Loki murmured, sending a sudden burst of heat through Thor.
His cheeks aflame, Thor quickly averted his eyes to rummage in the satchel and retrieve the things he would need.
The bracelets were of a work he had never seen before, simply closing tightly around Loki’s wrist in one smooth ring. Finding nothing resembling a fastening, the only way to remove the bracelets was to cut them off. To do that, Thor first needed to find a way between the silver and Loki’s skin.
He tried to pry it away with one of his own fingers, but the metal set too tight, almost as if it was burned into place. The more Thor looked at Loki’s wrists, the more he suspected that theory to be true. Not knowing what else to do, Thor had to select a thin, smooth, metal spike and quickly filed off the pointy tip to make it smooth and round.
Thor tried to be as gentle as he could when he inched the spike underneath the edge of the first bracelet, but Loki still trembled and dug his fingers into Thor’s thigh, biting his lips to keep from crying out. Thor paused to give them both a moment and instead reached over and cut off a strap from the satchel.
“Here,” he murmured, gently pushing the leather between Loki’s abused lips. “Bite on this instead.”
Loki gratefully accepted the piece of strap and Thor urged him to hold on to the wrist of the hand which held Loki’s in place, before taking a deep breath and continuing with his work. Blood was already starting to flow by the time Thor managed to wedge the lower part of his thinnest metal clippers beneath the silver and quickly snapped it in half.
The bracelet hardly moved, clinging to Loki’s skin as if it refused to let go. Loki’s cheeks were wet with tears by the time Thor had managed to pry most of it off, his fingers slick with Loki’s blood and his own eyes stinging from having to hear Loki’s pained whimpers and knowing that it was him that was causing them.
With a soft clang that rang with finality, the first bracelet finally hit the ground and Thor almost sobbed in relief. Quickly, he reached for the bandages he had seen buried in the satchel and did his best to wrap Loki’s wrist as tightly as he could to stem the blood flow. Once that was done, Thor took the leather from between Loki’s lips and drew him close, holding him as tightly as he dared.
“Are you alright?” he asked shakily.
Loki nodded against him, already pushing himself away again. “Yes,” he said, a little hoarsely. “Let us continue.”
Wanting to get it over with, Thor obediently composed himself and grasped Loki’s other wrist. Thankfully, the second bracelet seemed to come off easier than the first and even though there was no less blood, the process seemed quicker. When Thor snapped it in half, he could have sworn that he felt a little jolt that left his fingers tingling, but he had no time to linger on that thought as he had to concentrate on removing the silver completely.
Loki spat out the piece of strap as Thor was wrapping his other wrist, the leather soaked and full of bite-marks. He leant against Thor and carefully wrapped his arms around his shoulders once the task was finished, letting Thor kiss away his tears and wrap them both in the fur he had brought.
When Loki licked his way into Thor’s mouth, his tongue tasted as salty as his cheeks had and Thor cradled his head in his palm to draw him closer. A faint groan from the guard reminded them of their surroundings and they parted reluctantly, their panting breaths white as fog between them.
“I need to leave,” Loki whispered, leaning in for one last kiss, before hastily throwing the tools Thor had used back into the satchel.
Thor helped him and they both got to their feet. When Thor wanted to hand the fur back, Loki shook his head.
“Keep that,” he told him softly, brushing it back into place over Thor’s shoulders. “And these as well.”
Loki pressed the silver bracelets into his still bloodied hands and Thor took them on reflex, one of the edges where it had been cut digging into his palm. In a rush, Thor suddenly remembered hot, stinking breath and luminous eyes.
“The wolf-” he started hastily, but Loki cut him off.
“I know. Worry not,” his green gaze was so intense that Thor felt as though he was looking directly into his soul. “I will come for you.”
Thor frowned and opened his mouth to say something more, but voices could be heard outside and the guard was stirring and so, with one last unreadable look, Loki slipped away and was gone.
“I will come for you,” the wolf whispered to him from the dark. “I can take you away.”
Luminous eyes shone from between the trees and he could feel the wolf’s breath on his face despite the distance between them. His stomach turned in protest at the foul smell.
“The wolf is someone in this village who wants you, Thor,” the trees whispered, a thousand voices blending into one. “Do you know who it is?”
Thor shivered, he opened his mouth to say something, but nothing came out, as though his voice had forsaken him. The wolf’s eyes bored into him and they seemed closer than before. “I know you well,” it growled. “There is no one else who can give me what I want.”
“You know it’s weaknesses,” the trees whispered fervently. “It cannot come out in daylight, it cannot step onto holy ground and silver can kill it.”
Thor clenched his hands into fists and a sharp pain shot through his hand, when he opened it, Loki’s silver bracelets lay there in a pool of his own blood. More welled up and dripped onto the ground, leaving blood red stains on the snow, the same colour as his cloak. Snow crunched beneath huge, heavy paws and it sounded as though it were bones being ground to powder.
But when Thor looked back up, the eyes looking at him were green and intent, familiar. “You’re so good,” Loki told him softly, earnestly. “And I am everything but.”
Thor was rooted to the spot, unable to move. Another crunch and Loki was closer, almost out of the forest, but his face was still cast in shadow, his eyes the only truly visible part of him. Another crunch, and Thor could see the blood dripping from Loki’s wrists, his hands, dying the snow red beneath his feet.
“Silver can kill it,” the trees insisted. “The wolf is someone in this village who wants you.”
Thor tried to say Loki’s name, but his voice was still absent. The silver in his hand burned and stuck to his palm. He wanted to drop it, but it would not part with his skin.
“I will come for you,” Loki told him softly, his eyes glinting. “Remember your promise to me.”
Thor gasped and shot up, the fur he had wrapped around himself falling off his heaving shoulders. Burying his face into his palms, Thor tried his best to control his breathing. His hair was slick with sweat, clinging to his brow and Thor brushed it aside, briefly grabbing onto it in an effort to ground himself.
Drawing the fallen fur back over his shoulders, Thor shivered and huddled into it. He could not seem to stop trembling.
“Thor?” a familiar voice called to him from beyond the bars. “Are you alright? You look ill, my boy.”
Relieved to have an excuse to banish his spinning thoughts, Thor got onto shaky legs and went to greet his grandfather. “Merely a bad dream,” he said and wished so very much that it was true.
His grandfather eyed him with concern, before offering him a piece of bread through the bars. Thor took it and bit into it, despite the raw feeling of his stomach. It was fresh and still warm and tasted of his mother’s cooking.
“Remember what your grandmother always said,” his grandfather patted his hand in reassurance. “All sorrows are less with bread.”
Thor gave him a tired smile. “Thank you, grandfather.”
“Now, we do not have a lot of time, but there is something I wish to tell you,” his grandfather said gravely, his voice dropping in volume and making Thor have to lean closer to hear him. “About the wolf. Since our last conversation, I have attempted some digging around myself and I believe that Loki-”
“Time is up!” the guard interrupted them harshly and Thor could have shouted in frustration. “Father Fafnir will be here any moment to escort the prisoner outside.”
His grandfather glared at the guard, but could do nothing but obey.
“Be careful, my boy,” he told Thor, even as he backed away from the cell.
Thor could only nod, his thoughts spinning out of control in his mind. Loki what? What was it that his grandfather had wanted to tell him?
Glancing up at the tiny window by the ceiling, Thor could see that dusk was already upon them. He had slept most of the day after his sleepless night, still exhausted from the feast and all that had followed. He wished now that he had not. He wished for more time to think.
The walk to the centre of the village was tense and silent. Father Fafnir radiated smugness, thinking victory to be just around the corner and Thor was torn between fear and his ever escalating thoughts. Nothing seemed to make sense anymore. They had given him back his red cloak and Thor was appalled that it would help them make a point to the villagers, to make him seem like the villain.
The whole village had come together in the churchyard, some already hidden inside the actual building, and Thor could see his parents as well as Volstagg, Hogun and Fandral, who was holding Sif’s hand. His mother was crying and his father looked murderous, as did his friends. Thor craned his neck in the hope of discovering Loki in the crowd, but neither he nor his father where visible. The knot in his stomach tightened.
Everyone was staring at him as Father Fafnir placed him in the middle of the square, forcing him to sit down at the edge of the well. The moon had long since risen and somewhere in the distance an owl announced the beginning of the night. Fafnir positioned his men strategically in an order he thought best to slay the wolf.
Thor watched them with growing dread. If Loki really was the wolf, then Thor feared for his life. Fafnir’s men were heavily armed and experienced. Silver arrows, swords and daggers glinted in the darkness, reflecting the firelight from the torches around them.
Did Loki keep his mind after the transformation? He must, otherwise why seek out Thor and talk to him? But then again, if Loki was the wolf, then why kill Jane and all the other people? The wolf had threatened Sif, had threatened Thor, if only indirectly. There was no sense in any of this!
And the silver bracelets. Thor was sure that Laufey had been the one to give them to Loki, but for what? As an attempt to tame him, to keep him under control? Was that also the reason Laufey had practically imprisoned him at home and forbidden Thor to see him? Were the silver bracelets the reason that the wolf had kept the peace for so many years?
What had Loki said? Thor fervently thought back to the strange conversation they had had, before Thor had removed the bracelets from Loki’s wrists. He had told Thor that he thought they fulfilled a purpose, but that he was no longer sure. That they restricted him and that he wished them gone.
Thor thought of the way the silver had hurt him, had looked as though it had burned his skin. Loki had come of age this year, maybe that meant that Laufey was no longer able to control him? Loki’s mother had died long years ago when Loki was still an infant, but no one seemed to know how she had died. Had she been the one to pass on her cursed blood?
Shaking his head to clear it, Thor glanced up at the sky. The night was dark, the stars hidden behind thick snow-clouds, the moon the only light above. Fafnir’s men were becoming restless, as were the villagers. More retreated into the safety of the church and Thor was grateful for it. There were already enough eyes on him.
When the deep growl of the wolf finally split the silent night, Fafnir’s men were prepared. They fired at it as soon as it landed in the square and it snarled and tried to leap out of the way. Thor dropped to the ground, ducking his head to avoid the silver arrows and watched one of Fafnir’s men fall, then another.
The wolf lashed out, sleekly avoiding another bout of arrows despite its massive size and the snow was already turning red.
Suddenly, there were hands on him, dragging him to his feet and towards the church.
“Move, Thor,” Fandral barked at him and Thor could do nothing but comply.
Volstagg had his other arm, while Hogun led the way, skilfully avoiding the place where the wolf was currently tearing another of Fafnir’s men to pieces. Thor fought the intense urge to be sick and concentrated on keeping up. The full day and night he had spent in that freezing cell had weakened his body and the thought the the beast currently killing men after men was supposed to be his Loki made Thor feel as though every little bit of his energy had been drained.
His father met them halfway, grabbing onto Thor and dragging him the last meter to the church, where he gratefully collapsed in his mother’s arms. Thor could feel that he was sweating, his mother’s hands cool where they touched his clammy skin.
“He is burning with fever,” he could hear her say above him, the voices around him already sounding distorted and far away.
Weakly licking over his dry lips, Thor winced at the sting it produced. The cut on his lower lip where Loki had bit him felt as if it were aflame. The memory of Loki’s lips on his own, of his teeth sinking into his skin, was the last Thor knew before darkness claimed him.
When Thor opened his eyes it was to the blurry shape of his grandfather sitting at his bedside. Thor tried to blink to remove the distortion, but to no avail. His grandfather’s eyes looked dark in the dim light and when he smiled at Thor, his teeth looked big and frightening.
“Grandfather,” Thor mumbled, feeling hot and still delirious. “What big eyes you have.”
His grandfather leaned closer, looming over him. “The better to see you with, my boy.”
“Grandfather,” Thor all but slurred, his head spinning with fever. “What big ears you have.”
“The better to hear you with, my boy,” his grandfather reassured him, his smile widening and his teeth glinting in the dark.
“Grandfather,” Thor said, the sting in his lip making every word hurt. “What big teeth you have.”
His grandfather leaned even closer, his breath hot and foul on Thor’s face, and his eyes now luminous and shining at him from the dark.
“The better to eat you with, my boy,” he growled, teeth bared in a snarl as he launched himself at Thor.
Thor shot up form the bed, the wet flannel that had rested on his forehead falling into his lap. Panting, Thor looked around the room, recognising it as his own. The faint light of dusk was pouring in through the open window and he caught sight of his mother coming to his side.
“Thor, dear, are you alright?” she asked, concerned, reaching out to feel his forehead.
“Yes, mother, I feel much better,” Thor answered distractedly, already swinging his feet over the side of his bed.
His mother frowned at him. “Where do you think you are going?”
Thor stood and ran his tongue over the cut in his lips. It felt better now and not as hot to the touch, as did his head. Grabbing his red cloak from where his mother had hung it over a chair, Thor slid it on.
“To grandfather’s,” he said, casting a searching eye around for his favourite hammer. “I think he is in danger.”
His mother did not look appeased, but nevertheless said nothing to that ambiguous statement. She handed him his hammer from where it had rested behind her on the table and pushed a basket in his other hand.
“I baked some bread for your grandfather,” she told him. “And there is some wine in there as well. Be so good as to bring it to him, my dear.”
Thor nodded and fastened his hammer to his belt in order to have more room for manoeuvre. “I might stay overnight, so do not wait up for me.”
His mother gave him another concerned look, then brushed the hair from his face and leaned close to brush a kiss to his forehead. “Be careful, dear.”
Thor squeezed her hand. “I will be.”
It was cold enough to freeze the blood in his veins and more snow had fallen overnight, crunching beneath his boots. Thor shivered and shifted the basket from one hand to the other so he could pull up his hood, before hurrying along. An icy breeze made his cloak flutter around him and the few villagers he passed eyed him wearily, but said nothing.
When he passed the square he could see several men still cleaning up the mess there. The snow was still drenched in blood and when Thor looked away, he caught side of Father Fafnir’s unmoving form on one of the carts, four deep gashes in his chest. Thor picked up his pace.
His steps only slowed when he drew near to his grandfather’s cabin. Tightening his grip on the basket, Thor carefully climbed the steps to the front door.
“Grandfather?” he called, reaching out with his free hand to ease open the door.
It creaked slightly and the sound made the fine hair at the back of Thor’s neck stand on end. Carefully, he pushed the door further open and took a hesitant step into the main room. He placed the basket next to the door, squinting into the darkness.
“Grandfather?” he repeated, softer this time, and took another step into the room.
A strange smell hung in the air and Thor’s hand shook slightly when he took his hammer from where he had fastened it to his belt. Something moved beyond the curtain separating the bed from the main room and Thor froze, looking hard as he tried to make sense of what he was seeing. Another movement and then Thor had his answer.
Luminous eyes bored into him from beyond the curtain accompanied by a growl so deep it made the floorboards vibrate. Without another thought, Thor bolted. He almost slipped on the wooden stairs and jumped over the last four. If he had to face the wolf, then he wanted to be in the open, not trapped in his grandfather’s little cabin.
Hammer in hand and cloak flying behind him, Thor tore into the woods, needing to get some distance between himself and the place where his grandfather had so recently been slain. Tears stung his eyes and he wiped at them furiously. Now was not the time for grieving.
Not wanting to waste all his energy on running, Thor finally slid to a halt and whirled around, ready to face whatever would come. He did not have to wait long. With a gigantic leap, the wolf had landed in the middle of the small, snow covered meadow, his foul breath already penetrating Thor’s nostrils.
He would not, could not think of this beast as his Loki, or he was sure to lose the last of his wits.
“You cannot escape from me, Thor,” it growled inside his head in a voice that made Thor’s bones shake.
“I am not,” Thor told it firmly, clutching his hammer so tight that its handle dug painfully into his palm. “And now that you have me, what do you intend to do with me?”
The wolf stalked closer, its massive paws leaving deep imprints in the snow. It bared its shining teeth in a snarl and more of its foul breath hit Thor’s face, making him feel ill.
“I will do what I have wanted to do for years,” the wolf all but whispered, pure malice in its eyes. “I will avenge the death of Fárbauti.”
Thor’s eyes widened in surprise and the arm holding his hammer lowered slightly in surprise, this being the last thing he had expected. “What?” he asked, completely bewildered. “But I was merely a child when she died!”
“It was not you that killed her, Thor,” the wolf snarled, its big mouth snapping at Thor in warning. “It was your father, Odin, that slew her.”
Thor curled the fingers of his free hand into a fist. “You lie!” he shouted. “My father would never do such a thing!”
The wolf was even closer now, the heat from its massive body enough to warm Thor’s skin. “Oh, but he did,” the wolf sneered. “And he never even knew.”
Thor’s frown deepened and he sought for a way to side-step the wolf to put some distance between them, but the wolf merely snarled at him and would not let him move an inch.
“You see, on one of the wolf hunts your precious father severely injured a werewolf,” the wolf went on menacingly, a manic gleam in its glowing eyes. “He knew not that he had injured it badly enough to kill it, but kill it he did. She died within the night, there was nothing I could have done to save her. And you!”
The last two words were roared, making Thor’s head spin at the intensity. “You will pay for your father’s mistake. He shall know what it means to lose a loved one. First he comes along and takes my wife and now you! You want to take my son from me! But I will not allow it. Loki is mine. He belongs at my side, not yours!”
Thor felt as though the air had been punched from his lungs. The woods around him were spinning and he stumbled back, his back hitting the thick stem of a tree. “You,” he breathed in disbelief. “It was you.”
Laufey bared his teeth at him once more, sharp and ready to rip Thor’s throat out. His snout was almost touching Thor’s skin and Thor had to fight down the urge to be sick.
“Yes, me,” he whispered, madness in his every, jerky move. “And now I will kill you and it will be the greatest pleasure I have ever known. You will pay for your father’s sin and you will never have Loki. He is the last thing I have of my mate and belongs to me! So prepare to die, Odinson!”
Thor ducked away from the assault just in time for Laufey’s teeth to sink into the bark of the tree, exactly where Thor’s head had been only moments before. Thor stumbled on the slippery ground and raised his hammer in defence. Laufey roared at him and whirled around to attack him again.
Laufey’s head whipped around and Thor followed his gaze. And there Loki was, panting hard and looking every bit as though he had run as fast as he could to reach them. His wrists were still hidden by bandages, but his complexion had already improved and the fever seemed to be gone as well. His eyes were alight with an inner fire and he looked healthier than Thor could remember in a very long time.
Taking a careful step closer, Loki gave his father another imploring look. “Please, do not do this,” he said, his voice shaking despite his best efforts to remain calm. “Do not harm him. You know I cannot let you.”
“Loki, no,” Thor said, holding out a hand to stop him. “Do not come any closer. I do not want you hurt.”
“Be silent,” Loki hissed at him, eyes flashing. “Do you think I will idly stand by and watch my father tear you to pieces?”
Thor knew there was nothing he could say to keep Loki away and somewhere, deep down, a selfish part of him rejoiced at that fact.
“Father,” Loki said again to the feral looking wolf. “Thor is mine. Do not harm him.”
Laufey tilted his head slightly, but the snarl was back and Thor could see the tension in his muscles in preparation to leap. “I am sorry, son, but I will not spare him,” he growled. “You will find a way to live without your mate, like I have, and we shall never be apart.”
Thor’s grip on his hammer tightened once more and he was ready to whip it up to protect himself, but he never got the opportunity. Just as Laufey readied himself for a leap, a smaller wolf crashed into him with full force. The momentum sent them both sprawling into the snow and it took Thor only a second to recognise Loki as the smaller wolf sprang back to its feet, taking a defensive posture in front of Thor and snarling at his father.
Loki was much smaller, only half the size of his father and much closer to the size of a normal wolf. His fur was just as thick, however, and the tail just as bushy where it brushed Thor’s leg.
Laufey looked livid as he he rightened himself. “You will defy me like this?!” he roared. “You will betray me for the son of your mother’s killer?!”
“Thor is my mate,” Loki hissed and his voice in Thor’s head sounded the same as when he talked aloud, nothing like Laufey’s inhuman growling noises. “I will not let you harm him as long as I draw breath.”
Laufey howled, both in outrage and with Loki’s betrayal, before launching himself at his smaller son. Loki threw himself to the side and put obvious effort into putting some distance between Thor and his mad father. He was slick and fast where Laufey was slowed down because of his mass and clever in tricking his father into exerting himself, but even so, Thor could see that Loki had no chance of winning this fight. Not alone, at least.
Careful not to draw attention to himself, Thor slowly inched to the right and closer to the fighting wolves. Reaching into his pocket, Thor closed his hand around the pieces of the silver bracelets Loki had given him. Laufey was snarling and one of his massive paws got Loki in his side. The smaller wolf howled in pain and Thor burned hot with anger.
Thor’s hammer connected with Laufey’s flank and the big wolf was so surprised, that Thor managed to get another hit to the side of his snout before Laufey was on him. Thor let himself fall and shoved his hammer into Laufey’s mouth just as the wolf was about to tear into him, rendering him unable to attack that way.
In one swift move, Thor rammed the silver pieces into Laufey, feeling them immediately singe his fur and sink deep into his flesh. Laufey howled around the hammer still in his snout and blood welled up, more blood than Thor had expected, flowing freely from the wound and covering his hand in warm slickness. It took him another moment to realise that he had pierced Laufey straight through the heart.
Loki crashed into the bigger wolf with a snarl, effectively pushing him off Thor and preventing the huge beast from collapsing on him and crush him to death. Loki wasted no time in sinking his teeth into Laufey’s throat, before quickly detaching himself with obvious disgust.
Thor lay panting, unable to move for the moment, averting his eyes from Laufey’s still slightly twitching body. He should have startled when Loki suddenly appeared above him, but his green eyes looked so familiar that all Thor could do was to simply stay where he was. With infinite care, Loki nuzzled his cheek, his nose cool, but not unpleasant. His breath was nothing like the foul stench he had learned to associate with the wolf and Thor raised the hand that was not covered in blood to gently, hesitantly, stoke it over Loki’s wolf head.
The black fur was as soft and thick as it looked and when Loki leaned into the touch, Thor gently buried his fingers into the fur at his neck. It was even bushier there and Thor could feel the warmth radiating from Loki’s skin underneath.
“Thor?” Loki asked softly in his mind, even as he rubbed his head against the side of Thor’s face. “Are you hurt?”
“No,” Thor murmured, briefly burying his face into Loki’s fur, before forcing himself to rise from the cold snow. “But you are, let me see.”
Loki obediently turned and let Thor inspect the wound Laufey’s claws had left. Thankfully, it was not deep, but Loki’s fur was slick with blood and the wound had not closed yet.
“We need to bandage it,” Thor said, doing his best to keep his voice neutral and stay as calm as he could. There would be enough time for lengthy talks and emotional break downs later.
“It can wait,” Loki turned his head to look where they had left Laufey and Thor reluctantly followed suit. “We need to remove this first.”
Laufey was doubtlessly dead. He was back in his human form, the snow beneath him red with blood and his eyes wide and empty, staring sightlessly at the sky above.
“Will you be alright?” Thor asked, allowing some concern to tinge his voice and reaching out to gently stroke Loki’s side, careful to avoid the injury.
“Yes,” he answered quietly, but determinedly. “Let us get it over with.”
Limping slightly from the pain in his side, Loki made his way over to the lifeless body of his father. He picked up Thor’s hammer, carefully sinking his teeth into the leather hilt and lifting it from the ground.
“I wish I could be of more assistance, but I cannot change back until dawn,” he confessed quietly and Thor thought it best not to answer.
He let Loki carry his hammer and dedicated himself to the task of dragging Laufey’s ridiculously tall form towards the river. Thankfully it was not far, and Thor had not acquired his muscles for nothing. He knew that they had to dispose of the body, that the villagers must never know the truth, or Loki would never be left in peace.
Once there, Thor fought down any feeling that was fighting to emerge and simply let his body take over. He accepted the pebbles Loki brought him and, one by one, shoved them into the cut he had made on Laufey’s dead body, before sewing him back up. He insisted that Loki wait at the shore while Thor took a boat on the river to dump the body where the water was deepest.
When that was done, Thor washed his hands in the icy cold water and wetted the edge of one of his sleeves to gently wipe away the dried blood still clinging to Loki’s snout. Loki allowed it, closing his eyes and wrapping his long, bushy tail around Thor’s waist. It felt like a warm rope against the small of his back and hips and calmed some of Thor’s frayed nerves.
The walk back to his grandfather’s cabin took longer than Thor remembered, as Loki was slowed by his injury and Thor’s legs felt as though they were made of lead. Exhaustion of the past few days lay heavy upon his shoulders and the toll the fever had taken on him had yet to fade. They could not return to the village with Loki still in his wolf form and Thor would rather chop off his own hand than to leave Loki’s side ever again.
The door stood ajar still and Thor was thankful for it, for it had given the fresh night air a chance to chase away any lingering smell of Laufey’s presence. Weary of what he would find inside, Thor tread carefully, Loki’s warm flank a reassuring pressure at his side. Despite expecting the stuff of nightmares to greet him, the cabin looked exactly as Thor remembered it. The only indication of the crime that had happened being a few bloodstains on the sheets.
Fighting the urge to be sick, Thor tore them off the bed and piled them into the darkest corner in order to burn them later. Retrieving new sheets and a mountain of furs from the trunk by the end of the bed, Thor quickly and efficiently re-made the bed. He threw open each and every window to let more cool night air and the smell of the forest in and thanked the memory of his grandfather when he found fresh water in the usual place.
Wordlessly, he washed Loki’s wound and, tearing an old sheet he found at the bottom of the trunk, he wrapped it tightly to staunch the blood that had started welling up once more and to keep it clean and protected during the night.
He felt Loki’s eyes following him as he went to bolt the door, but when he turned back around, Loki had stretched himself out next to the bed and rested his tired head on his paws. Shivering, Thor closed the shutters and made quick work of stripping out of his mostly torn and bloodied clothes, the small hairs on his body rising in protest of the cold. He noted, to his relief, that his red cloak seemed undamaged and carefully draped it over a chair.
Sliding under the furs, Thor dragged them up and over his shoulders to ward off the icy cold. Reaching down, Thor’s hand found Loki’s back in the dark, his fingers sliding into the warm fur there and curling into it. “What are you doing down there?” Thor asked him tiredly, words low and rough with exhaustion. “Come here.”
Quicker than Thor would have thought was possible with his injury, Loki was up on the bed and snuggling into his side. Thor wrestled the furs out from beneath his body and covered them both, curling closely around Loki’s warm form and reattaching his hand to the soft, bushy fur at the back of his neck.
“I was unsure whether you wanted me here with you,” Loki murmured, his cold nose pressing into Thor’s jaw.
Thor leant into the caress and shifted impossibly closer, warmth seeping into him from Loki’s body. “And which one of us is the fool now?” he mumbled back, eyes already closing. “Now there is no escaping it. You belong to me and I will never let you go again.”
Loki sighed hot breath against his skin. “Good.”
When Thor slipped from sleep to consciousness, it was a slow and sluggish process, his subconscious still clinging to blissful oblivion. Instinctively, he curled closer to the warmth beside him. It took him longer than it should to realise that his face was no longer buried in fur, but Loki’s dark hair and that his hands were resting on smooth skin instead of the wolf’s body.
He could feel Loki’s hands, one curled around the back of his neck to cradle him close and the other resting on his spine. One of Loki’s long legs was draped over his hip and Thor could feel his deep, even breathing against his chest. Blinking open his eyes, Thor found his vision obstructed by dark hair and reached up to gently smooth it down.
Loki made a content noise in the back of his throat and nuzzled closer without waking. Thor tightened his hold on Loki, tugging him closer and pressing a kiss to the top of his head. Not wishing to waken yet, Thor attempted to slip back into darkness, but his mind and body were well rested and refused to bend to his will.
Head clearer than he would have liked, Thor’s thoughts mercilessly dragged up the memories of last night. He did not want to think about any of it, wished he could simply forget all the ugliness that had happened before this point, but as hard as Thor tried to fight them back down once more, this time they would not yield.
Pressing his burning eyes closed, Thor buried his face in Loki’s dark hair and breathed in shakily. He thought of Jane and times long past when they would all play together. He thought of the deep sadness in Sif’s eyes, having lost her sister and closest friend all in one blow. And he thought of his grandfather, who had done no wrong in his life only to be devoured by a monster in his own home.
Taking another deep breath, Thor forced himself away, unwilling to disturb Loki’s much needed rest. As carefully as he could, Thor slipped from Loki’s arms and from under the furs. He was thankful for the rug at the bedside, warding the icy stone from touching his bare feet, but Thor shivered nevertheless and hurried to the drawer he knew held some of his clothes from all the times he had decided to stay with his grandfather instead of returning home.
Thor pulled on the worn garments in quick, jerky movements and stepped into his fur-lined boots, his toes already numb with the cold from the stone beneath his feet. Silently, he crossed the room and bent to light a fire, pleased when the wood obediently flared to live with warmth.
Looking over at the sleeping Loki, Thor stepped up to the bed once more and assured himself that the furs where properly tucked in around his body, before bending down and ghosting a kiss against the now furrowed brow. Loki’s forehead smoothed at the gentle brush of his lips and Thor smiled.
Loki was still pale and shadows of exhaustion lined his face. Thor refrained from touching him again, lest he disturb his sleep, and instead straightened himself and reached for his cloak. Draping the thick fabric over his shoulders, Thor tread carefully so not to make a sound as he bundled up the heap of discarded clothing and sheets of last night.
Icy cold whipped against his face and Thor squinted up at the sky only to find the sun hidden by heavy snow clouds, even though the ground was already covered with it and Thor’s boot sank almost as deep as his knee when he stepped off the steps in front of the cabin. The path was painted a dull grey by the dim light of morning, Thor tightened his grip on his burden and walked deeper into the woods.
It was slow progress, but Thor refused to halt too close to the cabin, wanting to put as much distance between his place of comfort and the ugly ritual he had to perform, as possible. Avoiding the random avalanches from when the snow grew too heavy for the branches of the trees to hold, Thor pushed forward even though he could already feel wet coldness seeping through the fabric of his pants.
By the time he found a secluded spot, his face and hands were numb and he was shivering with the cold. Paying no heed to any of it, Thor dropped the bundle of fabric and did his best to clear away some of the snow before him before piling several pieces of wood and setting them alight. The fire soothed some of the bitter cold away and Thor was grateful for it.
Ensuring that the fire was indeed burning steadily, Thor picked apart the bundle of clothes and sheets and dropped them into the flames one by one so as not to stifle the flames. The smoke stung his eyes and Thor finally allowed them to spill over, the tears almost freezing on his face in the icy wind.
When he watched the blood-stained sheet fall into the fire, his knees gave out without his consent and he sank into the snow just as the first sound of anguish was ripped from his chest.
His head bent, Thor wept.
He wept for Jane, for Sif and their mothers, for his dear grandfather and for Loki and all he had suffered at the hands of his monstrous father. He wept long enough for his throat to feel raw and his knees numb, his face wet with tears and his hands shaking as his chest fought to let air into his lungs.
When the fire was reduced to a mere heap of ashes and his burning eyes finally refused to spill over again, Thor rose on aching legs and wiped his face. He covered the remains with snow and took several deep breaths, before finally, finally, feeling some of the ache in his chest lessen.
When he walked away and towards the village, Thor’s shoulders were straight and his eyes dry. His red cloak was flaring behind him in the icy breeze and he pulled his hood up against the cold. The pain was not yet gone and the hollow feeling of loss not yet filled, but he was breathing easier and his stride was strong and confident, leading away from the horrors of the past and ready for a future that would allow all these wounds to heal.
Balancing a bundle of fresh clothing for Loki and him both as well as some hot broth from his mother, Thor shouldered open the door to his grandfather’s - no, he corrected himself, it was now their - cabin.
In his absence, the fire had warmed the small space inside, making Thor’s face and fingers tingle as the numbness faded. His pants were wet up to his knees, frozen stiff from his time outside, as was his cloak from the by now heavy snow-fall that had set in upon Thor’s arrival at the village.
Closing the door quietly behind himself, Thor put down the bundle in his hands and carefully stepped further into the room, toeing off his soggy boots so as not to drench everything in his path. As he hung his wet cloak over a chair, Thor found that Loki had risen from the bed in his absence only to have fallen back asleep by the fire. He was now dressed in some of Thor’s old clothes that hung loosely from his slim frame, and had curled up in the armchair closest to the fireplace, his shoulders wrapped in one of the furs from the bed.
A book lay on the floor, where it had undoubtedly slipped from Loki’s fingers when he had dozed off. Mindful not to make a noise, Thor crossed the room and retrieved the book to place it aside, before returning his gaze to Loki. The shadows seemed fewer now, his complexion a little less sickly and his sleep looked to be restful instead of defeat in the face of exhaustion.
Thor gently curled his big hand around Loki’s jaw, one of his thumbs following the line of Loki’s cheekbone all the way to his temple and into his dark hair. Loki’s eyelids fluttered and his fingers had curled around Thor’s wrist before his eyes had a chance to open.
Blinking sleepily at him, Loki’s other hand found a way into his hair to draw him closer. Thor yielded to the touch and used his free arm to brace himself against the back of the armchair as Loki tugged him into a kiss. His mouth was soft and warm from sleep, parting easily for Thor’s tongue.
Sliding his arms around Thor’s shoulders, Loki kept him close even as he drew back slightly. “Where have you been?”
“In the village, to have words with my parents,” Thor said softly, stealing another quick kiss before gently extracting himself from Loki’s arms to straighten himself. “Mother sends her love. She gave me some broth for you. Are you hungry?”
“I am,” Loki looked almost surprised at his own words and Thor smiled at him, uncovering the dish his mother had pressed into his hands before leaving the house.
He assured himself that it was still hot, before passing it to Loki along with a spoon. Settling into the armchair next to Loki’s, Thor’s smile returned as he watched Loki take the first, careful bite. Thor knew not why, but he derived a certain pleasure form watching Loki eat. Maybe it was reassurance that he would not not simply fade away with how thin he already was.
Loki gave him that particular look that meant he thought Thor a fool, but it only resulted in Thor’s smile widening and him leaning forward to brush a gentle caress against his cheek.
When Loki was finished, Thor took the dish to carelessly put it aside, instead catching Loki’s hand in his and pressing a kiss to his knuckles. “How are you feeling?”
Loki’s eyes were soft as he gave Thor a small smile, his fingers curling around Thor’s thicker ones. “Much improved.”
Thor pressed another kiss to the soft skin, before carefully pushing up the too long sleeves of Loki’s shirt to inspect the still inflamed wrist beneath. Cupping it gently in his hand, Thor found that it already looked much improved, more so than was normal for a wound such as this.
“You heal quicker than a human,” Thor said, surprised, his eyes flickering to Loki’s side where Laufey had injured him the night before. Slowly, he pushed the hem of Loki’s shirt up only to find the claw marks completely closed, four angry red lines all that remained of the injury.
“I do,” Loki admitted and shivered slightly when Thor traced the slightly raised flesh. “Or at least I do now that the bracelets have been removed. They suppressed my nature quite effectively.”
“Your father gave them to you. Why?”
Loki took Thor’s hand from his side and laced their fingers together once more, his hand looking pale and small and so much more graceful than Thor’s own. He was almost afraid to hurt him with his strength or the rough quality of his skin, but Thor knew how ridiculous that was, knew now what strength was hidden in Loki’s lithe body.
“To control me,” the words were so soft that Thor had to lean closer not to miss anything, close enough for Thor to feel Loki’s breath on his skin. “He told me that I was a danger to myself and others. I believed him. It was never my intention to hurt anyone.”
“I know,” Thor told him, just as softly and used his other hand to brush some loose strands from Loki’s face. “And you never did.”
Loki ducked his head then, as if wanting to hide from Thor.
“I thought I had,” he whispered, his voice pained. “He let me believe it was me. That it was me who had killed Jane and all the other villagers.”
Thor inhaled sharply and felt rage coil in the pit of his stomach. It was almost a pity that Laufey was no longer alive, Thor would have enjoyed making him suffer for what he had done to Loki. Chest tight with emotion, Thor tugged Loki from his seat and into his lap. Loki came willingly, curling into Thor’s arms as he cradled him close.
“Is this the reason why you did not confide in me?”
Loki exhaled heavily, his breath hot against Thor’s throat, before drawing back slightly. He did not look at him, but started tracing random patterns into Thor’s chest. “I wanted to tell you, I always did, but my father made me promise not to tell anyone,” Loki said softly, uncharacteristically unsure. “And I was afraid. You were the only one who always accepted me as I was.”
Loki looked at him then, eyes impossibly green and vulnerable. “You still are.”
Thor dew him closer and Loki smiled faintly, but it looked pained rather than reassuring. Their foreheads touched, Loki’s next words soft bursts of breath against Thor’s lips. “On the day my father gave me the bracelets I had intended to speak with you. I wanted to tell you everything. But then he told me that I was dangerous, that I could not keep seeing you. That you would never accept what I am and seek to slay me once you knew the truth.”
Thor jerked his head back, alarmed. “I would never,” he protested heatedly, his throat closing around the words in horror. “Loki, I would never-”
“I know, Thor,” Loki interrupted him gently, brushing Thor’s hair back and threading his fingers through it in a familiar, calming gesture. “But I knew how much you loved your friends and I did not want to endanger them, for your sake. When Jane…”
“You were not at fault,” Thor told him firmly.
“You do not understand!” Loki said harshly, though his eyes were desperate rather than angry. “I was so jealous. You were so close. She was always around you, could touch you whenever she pleased and I was so angry, because you were supposed to be mine. And I wished her gone and then she was and I thought it had been me, that I had hurt you that way and that I really was the monster my father led me believe I was.”
“Loki…” Thor murmured, but he knew not what else to say, so he cupped his hand over the side of Loki’s neck instead in a gesture he had performed a million times before ever since they were children. His fingers sliding into the soft hair at the back of Loki’s neck, even as he felt Loki’s pulse thrumming beneath the skin under his palm. “You are no monster.”
Loki leaned into the touch, his hands having stilled and resting against Thor’s chest as if they were feeling for a heartbeat. “I had every intention of giving you a chance of a life without me, to find someone worthy, but I could not let you go. I knew that I would be unable to, even when I tried to convince you otherwise.”
Thor smiled, winding his arms around Loki’s waist to draw him closer. “We are fortunate, then, that I am not easily convinced,” he said, pressing a fleeting kiss to Loki’s nose only to watch it wrinkle slightly as Loki drew his head back with an annoyed look. Thor’s smile only widened.
“Stubborn as a mule, you mean,” Loki told him, though the words were fond, rather than sharp.
Loki’s finger brushed his temple, before tracing his bottom lip. The contact, though gentle, stung and Thor winced slightly as the pressure made the still tender cut there ache. Loki looked at him, though Thor could not read his expression.
“It still hurts?” his voice was low and intimate, his thumb probing the still irritated flesh of his lip and it made unbidden heat pool in Thor’s stomach.
Smoothing his hands over Loki’s thighs, just so he could feel the warmth of his skin through the fabric, Thor then cupped his hips and used his grip to pull Loki flush against him. They both exhaled heavily at the contact.
“Yes,” Thor answered, already leaning in to steal a kiss. “I do not mind.”
Loki’s lips parted readily and his tongue felt hot when it smoothed over the cut, sending a delicious mix of pain and pleasure through Thor. “You might, if you knew what it was,” he murmured into Thor’s mouth.
Thor drew him closer still, pressing their hips together and muffling a gasp between their lips. “Tell me.”
Loki’s eyes were dark and serious and Thor had never wanted him more.
“It is a claim,” Loki told him softly, “My claim. I needed to ensure that you could understand me and it is also the reason you were able to understand my father.”
Thor felt his forehead form a frown, seeking to piece his thoughts together even as desire fogged his thoughts and made it harder to concentrate. “A claim?”
“Yes,” Loki gently traced the contours of his lips, as if unable to stop touching him. “I am of age now and wolves mate for life. I have burned with the desire to claim you for years.”
Thor’s breath hitched, his fingers digging into Loki’s hips, unbidden and strong enough to leave bruises. They were close enough to share breath.
“Is it permanent?” he asked, feeling breathless and fat too hot, as if his skin would not hold him.
Loki shifted against him, pressing closer, his hands curling around Thor’s throat and tilting his head back to bring their lips closer together. “No.”
Finding a way beneath Loki’s shirt, Thor palmed Loki’s spine, tracing it and making Loki shiver. “But there is a way to make it so,” Thor said, not sure whether it was a question or a statement. Loki answered him anyway.
“There is,” he told him, watching him intently with eyes darker than he ever remembered them seeing. “You wish for it?”
Thor leaned closer still, nuzzling the soft skin of Loki’s cheek. “I have always wished to be yours.”
Loki made a sound at the back of his throat, needy and raw, as if he was starved and Thor his only hope for survival. He took Thor’s lips in an almost ruthless kiss, his tongue hot and hungry as it took possession of Thor’s mouth. It made his still tender bottom lip sting viciously, but Thor only opened wider, a desperate sound stuck in a chest that felt too tight. He felt breathless, trying to get as much air through his nose as he could, unwilling to part from Loki’s mouth for even a moment. Loki’s tongue found the cut on his lip and sucked. Hard. Hard enough to reopen it and make blood well up, giving their kiss a metallic taste.
“Take me,” Loki gasped into his mouth, before turning his head to press an open-mouthed kiss to Thor’s jaw. “Please, Thor, I want you to have me.”
Thor let loose some undignified sound that was very nearly a whimper and reclaimed Loki’s lips. Blindly, he stood, navigating the small space by memory alone. Loki wrapped his long limbs around him and let himself be carried across the room to the bed, already loosening the strings of Thor’s shirt.
They ripped at each other’s clothes and Thor felt the flimsy collar of his old shirt that Loki was wearing tear beneath the harsh treatment. They parted only long enough to fling their shirts to the floor, closely followed by their pants, which were left tangled with their boots, before Thor tumbled Loki onto the bed, catching himself just in time so not to knock the breath out of him.
Loki’s tongue was hot when it slid back into his mouth and against his own, making Thor arch against him and press him further into the sheets. Loki made a low, needy sound into his mouth, curling one of his long legs around Thor’s and the other around one of his hips to draw him even closer. Thor came easily with a greedy thrust of his hips and wrapped a hand around Loki’s thigh to hitch it further up and give him a better angle as he pushed against him once more and drew a moan from Loki’s lips.
Bracing his other hand next to Loki’s head, Thor felt it sink into the furs beneath them, rough against his over-sensitised skin. His muscles felt strung tight, thrumming with tension as he felt himself lose all coherency. His hips snapped forward once more, dragging his hardness against Loki’s and adding to the slickness there.
Loki’s head fell back, exposing his throat as he moaned deeply, pushing against Thor and sinking his finger’s into Thor’s hair to tug him closer. Thor latched onto Loki’s throat, burning with the desire to leave a mark of his own. His teeth sank easily into the soft skin of Loki’s neck, making Loki tighten his legs around Thor and push against him in an uncontrolled movement that made Thor bite down even harder.
“Yes,” Loki gasped sounding breathless and absolutely wrecked. “Yes.”
Thor groaned deeply, wanting nothing more than to make Loki sound like that again. He drew back only to move in close and retake Loki’s mouth, throwing one of his arms to the side, seeking the drawer in the bedside table where he knew some herbal oil was kept. He was forced to sit up then, sucking desperate breaths into his lungs and trying to regain some form of coherency.
Loki watched him with dark eyes and licked his lips, making Thor fumble before finally being able to withdraw the small bottle. Blindly plucking a pillow from the head of the bed, Loki lifted his hips and slid it beneath him to improve the angle. Thor clenched his teeth and inhaled deeply, desire making his vision swim and his skin feel too tight.
His hands were shaking, spilling most of the oil over the sheets and Loki’s stomach and he ended up having to chase it, sliding his fingers over Loki’s skin to coat them sufficiently. Loki arched into his touch and parted his thighs further to give Thor better access. Hooking one arm under Loki’s knee, Thor gently kissed the soft skin on the inside of his leg while his fingers tentatively sought out Loki’s entrance.
Loki pushed against his touch, impatient and demanding. “Hurry,” he ordered even as he drew Thor down for another deep kiss.
Despite the demand, Thor was gentle when he finally pushed the first finger inside. Loki was tight and so very hot, clenching around the intrusion and making Thor still immediately, unwilling to cause him pain. Loki sighed and pushed against him, the tightness easing slightly and allowing Thor’s finger to slide in deeper.
Knowing of Loki’s impatience, Thor added a second finger before receiving another complaint on his slowness. It slid in easier than he would have thought and Thor brushed another kiss against Loki’s thigh, before leaning in to kiss his chest. Slowly scissoring his fingers, Thor brushed his lips over the pink nub of one of Loki’s nipples.
Loki gasped, his fingers sliding into Thor’s hair and cradling the back of his head as he held him in place. Giving in to the urge, Thor ran his tongue over the soft flesh, feeling it pucker, before closing his lips around it and sucking it into his mouth at the same time as he thrust his fingers deeper and rubbing against something inside. Loki moaned and arched, his fingers tightening in Thor’s hair as he pushed sharply against his fingers.
Thor drew back enough to be able to see Loki’s face, before doing it again. Loki’s fingers slid from Thor’s hair to clutch at his shoulders instead, back arching once more, head falling back and eyes squeezing shut. Unable to resist, Thor leaned in, licking Loki’s salty neck, before moving to kiss him, his tongue sliding into his mouth just as he added a third finger.
Making a sound as though he was dying, Loki clung to him and Thor pressed closer, thinking that even their skin was too much of a barrier between them.
“Now,” Loki moaned into his mouth, sounding so far from his eloquent self that it made Thor burn. “I am ready.”
Thor kissed him again, before scraping together the last of his control and withdrawing. Reaching for the now nearly empty bottle of oil, Thor poured the rest over his hand and quickly slicked himself with it, keeping his touch as light and practical as he was able so as not to inflame his passion further. Grabbing one of Loki’s hips with slippery fingers, Thor used the other to guide himself. Loki’s long legs wrapped around him, pulling him close and Thor could feel the head of his hardness nudge against Loki’s entrance. It was hot and slick, but still very tight when he attempted to push forward, making him hesitate once more.
“Thor,” Loki ground out between clenched teeth, indignation clear in his voice even though it was accompanied by harsh pants. “I will not break.”
Thor braced his arm next to Loki’s head and leaned in to brush his lips against Loki’s face and lips. “I do not wish to hurt you,” he mumbled, nuzzling a sharp cheekbone.
Loki kissed him, his tongue curling into his mouth in a way that made Thor tremble and fear that he would be unable to support his own weight.
“I want it to hurt,” Loki whispered against his mouth, licking the cut on his lip and sending a shiver down Thor’s spine. “I want to know it is real and not merely another one of my dreams.”
Thor moaned, helpless and impossibly aroused. “Loki,” it almost sounded like a prayer.
Loki’s hands were gentle as he caressed Thor’s skin aimlessly, running through his hair and over his back before curling around the meat of his arse to draw him impossibly closer.
“Thor, please,” he whispered, kissing his jaw, the corner of his mouth. “Do you wish me to beg?”
Thor inhaled sharply, his forehead coming to rest against Loki’s, both of them slick with sweat.
“You do not have to beg me for anything,” he swore, looking deeply into Loki’s eyes. “Anything I can give you, it is yours.”
And then Thor tilted his hips and thrust. Stars exploded in front of his eyes and it suddenly felt as though he had sank into water, the sound of his blood rushing through him the only thing he could hear for a moment. Loki’s nails dug into his skin and did little to keep Thor from simply shattering to pieces this very moment.
Burying his face against the soft skin of Loki’s neck, Thor panted harshly and attempted in vain to even his breathing. Loki was clutching at him and Thor instinctively started pressing his lips to any part of him he could reach, licking the salt from his skin and breathing in his familiar scent. Loki whimpered softly, though Thor was unsure whether it was in pain or pleasure. Either way, his long legs shifted against Thor’s hips and he arched against him, pushing Thor deeper into him.
“Move,” he demanded, sounding breathless rather than commanding, licking at Thor’s skin and pressing closer. “Please, Thor.”
And Thor could do nothing but comply, his thrusts greedy and harder than he intended, pushing them both upwards along the bed over linens and furs. But Loki moaned beneath him and pushed back, panting “Yes” and “Thor” into his skin and mouth, their kisses turning sloppy and uncoordinated. Thor knew that he could not last, the intense burn of release already tingling across his spine and heightening his desperation.
“Claim me,” Thor panted, the desire for it so strong that it felt like a living thing, knowing that it had to be now or it would be too late. “Make me yours.”
Loki moaned and grabbed at him, kissing him deeply and without fineness, before nuzzling against his jaw, behind his ear. Loki’s lips found the tender skin where his throat met shoulder and Thor felt him lick the spot, before sucking at it hard enough to make his teeth dig into his skin. Thor gasped and arched into it, tilting his head to give further access. And then, suddenly, the teeth sank into his skin in one, sharp bite.
Pain raced through him, sweet and sharp, making his hips snap forward and bury himself deeper into Loki’s warmth. Loki licked at the wound, but Thor drew him away to claim his mouth. The sharp taste of metal burst on his tongue, distantly making Thor realise that blood had been drawn. Loki had done it. Thor was his now.
His release crashed over him like a tidal wave, ripped from him in almost painful bursts and whitening his vision as he came undone in a way he had never known before. Loki held him through it, clinging to him even as Thor felt him shake apart beneath him. Hot wetness spilled between them, turning their last, frantic thrusts into a slick slide of skin against skin.
Thor thought that he must have slipped into darkness after that, for when he opened his eyes he found that he was looking at the ceiling, his gaze unfocused. His temples were throbbing in a painful headache and Thor closed his eyes once more, even the faint light from outside too much for his tender skull. His thoughts were slow, as though they were coated in honey, and Thor could feel the tell-tale signs of a fever.
Loki was a smooth, warm weight against his side, one of his hands caressing Thor’s side even as his lips traced the mark on his neck. It stung, but even so sent a hot shiver of desire through Thor. Turning his head made it swim, nevertheless he sought Loki’s mouth with his own and sighed in relief as he found it. Loki kissed him gently, carefully, the hand on his side cupping his jaw before softly rubbing one of his aching temples. It felt cool on his clammy skin, soothing.
“Go back to sleep, Thor,” Loki whispered, all the while pressing tender kissed to his face. “You are in need of rest.”
Thor wished say something to Loki, wanted to ask questions, but as quickly as the words formed in his mind they slipped from him again. Darkness tugged at the edges of his consciousness and the fever seemed even higher than when he had woken mere moments before. Thor shivered, torn between hot and cold, and Loki drew the furs closer around them, cradling Thor against him as he pressed a cool hand to his forehead.
It was the last thing he remembered before slipping back into sleep, feverish dreams dragging him deeper into the darkness.
His vision was blurry and his thoughts far away and unattainable as though they were not his own. Thor blinked, though his vision did not improve and his limbs felt as though it was lead and not blood coursing in his veins. His head ached in a way he had never known before and the left side of his neck felt as though it was aflame.
Thor’s throat felt raw and dry, but he thought he must have made a sound, for hardly a moment passed before something beside him shifted.
“Shhh,” he heard distantly, sweet, sudden coldness washing over his cheeks as a cloth soaked with ice water was smoothed over his face and neck, before coming to rest on his forehead. “Not long now. It will be over soon, Thor, I promise.”
Thor’s fingers twitched and Loki’s hand wrapped around them, curling in a secure, protective grip.
When Thor woke next, his head felt clear and his body free from the wretched shivers of the fever. He was dressed in a sleeping shirt and wrapped in furs, a cold, refreshing breeze against his face from where it found its way through the small sliver that had been left between the shutters of the window next to the bed.
Blinking, Thor looked to the ceiling and was grateful when it came into focus. He wondered, absently, whether the tiny crack had always been there, because it was one he had never seen before and he had thought himself well educated of every small detail of the cabin after having spent many a day with his grandfather throughout the years. Winters were often harsh and confined people to their homes and Thor remembered listening to his grandfather as he read to him, while Thor lay on this very bed looking at the wood above.
Careful so as not to make himself nauseous, Thor shifted into a sitting position, the furs that had been tucked around him falling from his shoulders and into his lap. Looking around, Thor found that the cabin was not as he had left it. The clothes that had been strewn across the floor were gone, so was the bundle that Thor had brought, including the dish that had held the broth and Thor’s cloak. And, most importantly, there was no trace of Loki.
A fresh smell hung in the air, under-layered with the smell of the forest and Thor thought that it must be from the small crack of the shutters. Wood crackled int he fireplace and Thor thought he could feel a tiny itch in his nose from the smoke of the fire.
Never one to stay idle, Thor rose from the bed, careful to avoid the cold stone upon first standing, and stepped into a clean pair of boots to make his way over to the wash basin. Splashing his face with cool water, Thor dried himself with a clean cloth, before letting his fingers wander to his neck and gently probing the wound there.
He expected to feel pain at the contact, but there was none. Frowning, Thor touched it again, tracing his fingers over the skin, only to find that not only was there no pain, but there was no wound at all, only the slightly raised marks of a scar. Remembering the small mirror his grandfather had always used to shave, Thor briefly rummaged through a nearby drawer and emerged victorious with the reflecting glass in hand.
Banishing the darkness of the room by throwing open the shutters of the window by the bed, Thor held the mirror up to inspect his neck in the light of day. As he had suspected, the only remains of Loki’s bite was the faint outline of a scar, shaped in an incomplete circle where Loki’s teeth had sunk into his skin. Unable to resist, Thor touched it again, his fingers pressing into the mark as if to secure it more firmly into his skin.
Behind him the sound of the front door closing made Thor startle and nearly drop the mirror. Inhaling sharply, Thor’s nose immediately filled with Loki’s scent and as he turned, he expected Loki to somehow be close enough to justify Thor’s ability to smell him. But Loki was by the door still, regarding Thor with a soft look in his eyes, Thor’s red cloak wrapped around him. Thor stared, finding the sight foreign but at the same time making desire curl in the pit of his stomach.
As with all of Thor’s clothes, the cloak was too big on Loki’s slender frame, touching the floor and trailing behind him, marking their small difference in height. He was carrying a laundry basket holding neat stacks of clothes for them both. Thor cast the mirror aside, even as Loki did the same with the basket and they met in the middle.
Loki’s face and lips where cold from the freezing wind outside, warming beneath Thor’s mouth and hands. Loki’s arms wrapped around his shoulders, drawing him closer and Thor wound his own around Loki’s slim waist beneath the red cloak, shivering when Loki’s cold, wet clothes touched the bare skin of his legs where the nightshirt ended.
“You are freezing,” Thor murmured, drawing Loki deeper into his embrace, uncaring of the melting snow soaking into the flimsy fabric of his nightshirt.
Loki smiled into the kiss, combing loose strands of hair from Thor’s face. “Not anymore.”
Thor’s lips curved into a smile of his own, heart warming at the softness in Loki’s face and the rare, sincere happiness radiating from him. Thor could smell the forest on him, thought he even detected a trace of his own home filled with the smell of his mother’s cooking. His nose tingled with the intensity of taking in so many new scents, unaccustomed at being so sensitive. Thor rubbed at it, absently, hoping to chase some of the strange feeling away.
Loki followed the movement with his eyes. “How are you feeling?” he asked, fingers detangling from Thor’s hair and tracing over his cheeks, briefly feeling his forehead as if to check for remains of the fever. It was an ironic reversal of roles.
“Better,” Thor said truthfully, leaning into Loki’s touch. “Though a little strange. I fear I might be disoriented still.”
Loki brushed another fleeting kiss to his lips, before stepping back and out of his embrace. “I have drenched you,” he said, already crossing the room to where he had deposited the basket. “I visited your mother to return her dish and brought more of your clothes. I also fetched some of my own things from my father’s house.”
Loki’s voice was steady, conversational, and he did not stumble when he mentioned his father. “You should not yet venture outside,” he continued, drawing forth a fresh shirt and pants for Thor to wear. “This year’s winter seems to be harsher than the last. I hope you did not mind that I borrowed your cloak.”
Thor accepted the garments, once more tracing the folds of his cloak on Loki’s form with his eyes. “It suits you well.”
Loki stayed close and gifted him with another smile. “Not as well as you,” his voice sounded playful, teasing without being sharp. “I fear red is not my colour.”
Thinking of all the times Thor had imagined Loki spread atop this very cloak, Thor could not help the heat pooling in his stomach. “It suits you because it belongs to me.”
Despite the open window by the bed, the cabin was still mostly cast in shadow and Thor should not have been able to see Loki’s eyes darken in this dim a light. Neither should he have been able to smell the desire that suddenly hung thick in the air between them. The notion made Thor’s head swim slightly.
“I can smell you,” Thor said softly, not yet able to connect all the dots. “Why?”
Loki closed the distance between them, his fingers coming up to trace the claim mark on Thor’s neck the way Thor had done only moments before. But whereas it had simply felt like a scar before, at Loki’s touch it seemed to come to life. It was as though it recognised Loki, heating beneath his touch and sending tingles that turned to sparks of desire through Thor’s body.
Thor’s lips parted on a gasp and he leaned into the caress, but Loki drew his fingers away, instead threading them into Thor’s hair once more, before resting them just where the skin of his neck met his hairline behind his ear.
“The mating bond has enhanced your senses to match mine,” Loki explained, his other hand curving around Thor’s hip as he leaned in to brush his lips against his unshaven cheek. “You will feel stronger and heal faster. And you should avoid silver. It will not harm you as it does me, but it will make you feel uncomfortable.”
Thor bent his head to kiss the tempting line of Loki’s neck. “What of the full moon?”
Loki cradled him close and Thor could feel the vibrations of his low voice beneath his lips as Loki answered. “You will be aware of the moon waxing and waning, but you cannot change form. You will merely feel agitated when the full moon nears, but I believe we might find a way to work off the excess energy.”
“Mmmh,” Thor hummed against Loki’s throat, burying his nose into the soft skin behind his ear and inhaling his scent, feeling him shiver. “And how would we accomplish such a thing?”
Arching against him, Loki plucked the clothes Thor was still holding from his unresisting fingers and let them fall to the floor. He did not bother answering with words, merely claimed Thor’s mouth in a hot kiss.
When Thor lay him on the bed, it was with the sheets hidden by his cloak, Loki’s pale skin and dark hair contrasted by the red beneath, and it was as beautiful as Thor had always known it would be.
They did not return to the village. Even though the wolf was gone, the people continued to live in fear of it. Laufey was not missed, but Loki was still seen as someone who did not belong and with his father’s overbearing presence removed, the villagers had no reservations in showing their wariness.
Thor was aware of the gossip behind their backs, one of the most popular topics being their removed way of life and that they had not officially wed in church. For all this, Thor cared not. He was the only smith in the village, beside his father, and people had little choice but to come to him and so their income remained steady.
Loki did not want to go back to his work as a woodcutter, claiming it far too dull. He preferred to stay away from the villagers and their evil tongues, content to stay at home and read. With the freedom to do as he pleased, Loki had taken to ordering books from the nearby city and spent days upon days absorbed within their pages. It pleased Thor greatly to see him so content.
His parents had accepted Loki with open arms, just as they always had, and Thor’s mother often urged Loki to read to her while she did her needlework. For the first time in Thor’s memory, Loki was completely healthy. The sickly pallor of his skin had eased, leaving him still pale, but more often than not with a faint pink hue on his cheeks from spending his days reading outside on their porch. He enjoyed sharing meals with Thor and the regular, hearty food had made him fill out slightly.
Sif, Fandral, Volstagg and Hogun were frequent visitors in their house and, despite their obvious lack of fondness for Loki, their relationship improved and to everyone’s greatest surprise, Hogun and Loki discovered some hitherto unknown fondness for each other and were now often found conversing or even laughing together.
On the nights of the full moon, Thor and Loki would chase each other through the woods before curling up together, in winter with furs in their bed and in the summer on the cool grass to look at the stars. Loki held a fascination for the night sky and Thor enjoyed listening to him talk about the stars and constellations he had read about.
Thor had often heard that perfection was something everyone sought and no one ever achieved. It may be that he did not fully grasp the concept, or maybe it was that he was too simple to find the complications hidden in it, but what he had with Loki, their slightly unconventional life together in their small cabin at the edge of the forest, felt very much like perfection to him.
Personally, I have only seen the movie and know little to nothing about the comics. But Wikipedia is my friend and I've read up on Norse mythology and the comic universe and so there is probably a little bit of everything mixed into this. Amora, Tyr and Fafnir are all a healthy mix of their comic and mythology selves and are only there because there weren't any characters from the Thor movie that I could squeeze into those roles.
Father Fafnir, of course, wears something like Father Solomon.
Loki as wolf I imagine to look somewhat like this or this, and Laufey is similiar to the wolf from Red Riding Hood.
The title is from a line in the lyrics of the song 'The Wolf' by Fever Ray from the sountrack of Red Riding Hood.