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Degenerate Matter

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“Can I come home?”

A pause, the green eyes as still as the shadow Loki did not cast. Then: a hand reaches forward, voice low with sorrowed promise.

“Yes. You can.”

 

*****

 

As they walked together Thor noted each step marked the path he had taken not so many days ago in glory and in hope. The stars known since shared childhood now hung cold and watchful beyond the great open balconies of the throne hall, which had since become silenced and dark. In that, it was now more Loki’s mastered domain than his own.

At his side Loki led them both to its end, head held both high and proud. He wore not the neat suit as he had upon Midgard; it had long since returned to the shimmering gold and green of his ceremonial armour. A moment later Thor dropped his eyes, looked forward again to their final destination even as his stomach began again that uneasy churn.

But then, he is the king now. Of course this place should shift itself to suit his glittering façade.

Though little more than mortal at his divine side, Thor would not let himself falter. It did not matter he felt still the lingering after-effects of both the scuffles of his path to Mjolnir, and then way his brother had pulled him between the worlds. Loki himself showed no ill-effect, appearing much the way he might have had he merely stepped through the Bifröst. And thus, for all Thor remained both taller and broader than his younger brother, somehow he had never felt so small.

Yet he kept pace with him all the same; it was a stubbornness inherited from his mother as much his stern father. Together they mounted the dais, and though his thoughts faltered his step did not. Thor swallowed hard but did not break the rhythm of their bodies, moving in perfect synchronicity as they climbed ever higher.

In that he regretted, suddenly, that he had never truly appreciated Loki for all that he could have been, given chance enough to prove his worth. The few times they’d been forced back to back in battle, together they had laid waste to all ranged about them. But it had always been Thor’s preference to fight alone with none but Mjölnir to hand, all the glory called to her star-death uru head and his hand alone.

And now I will never know again such battle. Father has left me mortal, and you say even you cannot undo the Allfather’s last decree.

At the last dais before the final steps leading to the throne itself Loki stopped, and Thor’s own feet took their still place. It was to be the time of the parting, here before Hliðskjálf, where Loki would rise and he would stay fallen. But instead he turned, instead he looked, the golden shaft of Gungnir still to hand. Loki had never lacked for height, only bulk. But with his great helmet held closed over the strong curve of his head, he stood taller even than his usual wont with eyes watchful and waiting.

Waiting for what?

A moment later, he supposed that he knew. Strangely, the urge to go to his knees felt to have come from somewhere far deeper than mere learned protocol and tradition. But Thor waited. Thor watched. In that he took the role of shadow and Loki, glittering gold in full armour, nodded his head with a shortness that might have once been satisfaction. Then he turned, green cloak swirling like the kaleidoscope of emotion in his shadowed eyes, and he mounted the last stairs.

He took his throne.

Thor still had no words. But he always had action. Dressed even now in the borrowed clothes granted him by the kindness of mortals – of which number he was now one – he went to one knee, fist clasped over his heart. A lingering sense of shame chased him down; when he bowed his head he could see how he remained covered in the mud of his futile attempt to prove himself worthy of what he would likely never bear again.

But Loki did not stop him. He did not even say a word, and in that silence Thor knew suddenly how truly alone they really were. Only the stars that shifted through the skies above and beyond the great vaunted golden hall watched them now. No Einherjar lingered in the guise of guards, and Loki had not called their mother to welcome him home.

Thor began to wonder if anyone beyond Loki even knew he had returned.

“That is why I brought you by the secret ways,” he said, sudden, soft, reading Thor’s glass face rather than his actual mind. “I am yet unsure as to how your return will be received. …or, indeed, if even it should be.”

“Then why did you bring me here?” he could not help but ask, head moving up as the hand across his hand dropped to his crooked knee. Loki displayed no outward disapproval, yet even without such cue Thor winced, ducked his head. “I…apologise for my insolence.”

To that, Loki actually snorted. Surprise jerked his head up, and in it he found Loki reclining upon the throne even further. The first two fingers of one hand lay pressed to his lips, concealing whatever smile might have been there.

“What did they teach you down on that provincial little rock?” he asked, idle in his half-mask of amusement, and Thor could not be certain how truly Loki mocked him in this demand for knowledge. But then, he’d never known that, even before things had changed so very much between them, then between the very realms themselves.

“Not enough, it would seem.”

“Yes. So it would seem.” The hand dropped, revealing that whatever smile had once been there had long since vanished. “And now I am king.” It seemed like he should not have been able to, but he managed to lean further back, knees moving further apart by alarming degree. “Have you ever sat upon this throne, Thor?”

“Never.” He gave it honestly, but then he had only rarely seen the need to twist untruths about the thick threads of reality. “The closest I ever came were the games we played as children.”

Loki’s nod was smooth despite the heaviness of the horned helm. Once or twice Thor had held the ungainly thing between curved palms, and even knowing his brother’s obstinate pride he could never understand how he bore it. His own body still ached with the exertion of his last arrogant stand, and now his knees were pained already from the bend and the pressure against the hard marble floor runed with gold and seiðr. But he held his peace, he held his place. And Loki sighed, tilting his head in curious question.

“Shall we play a game now?”

It might have been a memory of childhood brought once more to life, if not for the reversal of place, if not for the silence of a vault locked and shuttered against the world beyond its walls. “What sort of game?”

His wariness only brought the ghost of a smile back to his pale lips. “How about I ask you a question, and you tell me if you know the answer?”

One may not deny his king. But Thor did not say no, observed instead: “I always lose this game.”

“In a way, I have already lost it first,” Loki replied in low wonder, and even as Thor frowned he spoke with a deceptive still ease. “Did you know I was not, never have been, never will be, your brother?”

At first the dissonance of tone and word wrought the words in what seemed another language entirely. Then, comprehension filtered through; like cold water it washed harsh over his skin, and began to solidify in sharp crystal deep in the most broken sectors of his heart. “What?”

At first there came only silence, Loki’s eyes moving in swift back and forth as if he truly were capable of reading and taking the measure of his brother’s soul by sight alone. “You never could lie,” he said finally, hand rising again in wearied thoughtfulness. “But it is no lie, even from my lips. I am not your brother. I never was.”

He wanted to stand. He wanted to rage. Instead Thor remained on his knees and stared at the stranger who had been placed upon the throne of Asgard. “Loki, what are you talking about?”

“The irony of the Liesmith being the greatest lie of them all.” He moved his hands, palms curving tight about the ends of the arms as though it might rise up, seek to throw him off as usurper and unworthy. “And now I am upon your throne…but even should I step aside, return it to you…what difference would it make? No mortal can bear the truths of Hliðskjálf. It would only break that little mind the Allfather stuffed you into, faint shadow of golden once-glory.”

The deep bitterness of Loki’s words moved through him like a rip current, threatening to drag him out to sea to drown him deep. Thor fought it. He would not drown, not today – and neither, too, would Loki. “You are my brother.”

“Only in arms – and do you know what those arms are?” As Thor’s eyebrows drew downward, Loki pushed out a chuckle too high-pitched to be truly nonchalant. “I thought not. You and I, count us both the outcasts. Neither one of us is truly deserving of this throne.” Loki reclined into it all the same, legs opened nearly obscenely wide, though Gungnir he had thrust into its back and had since ignored. His eyes were upon Thor alone, shadowed and wide in the dim light of the empty hall. “So why should we fight for it? When it belongs not to either one of us, now?”

Thor swallowed past what felt a spiked canker lodged in his throat. “I never wanted to fight you for it.”

“Neither did I.” Loki sounded very nearly surprised, though it disappeared with the careful calculation of his next words. “Do you know, I do not know why I brought you back here?”

“You wish for me to stay on Midgard?”

“Is that not where mortals belong?” Thor’s heart twisted like a broken kaleidoscope, shards of broken glass and crystal pressed deep into bleeding muscle, though Loki just gave another thoughtful hum. “…but then, I belong here no more than you do. Perhaps I should go home too.” Something close to excited anticipation rocked his voice, echoed through his working fingers. “So, then – shall we have one last dance, before we quit this realm and go back to the little places the fates of the damned Norns have wrought for us?”

With all the brilliance of a shooting star sudden madness flashed in those eyes. Even as he winced, rocked back just a fraction, Thor realised he had seen it before. It had only ever been faint, those rare moments in their past when the usually composed and self-controlled Loki had finally been pushed just a step too far. In those moments of threatened and never-known disaster his entire pale-skinned body had been seen to flicker with barely-contained seiðr. But something different crawled under his skin now, bringing him to precarious new purpose, making the air between them tight and hot as if it compressed upon itself. Like a lodestone, the charge of it only drew Thor all the closer.

“Yes,” Loki said, low, distracted, appearing almost unaware of the deepening power of desire, “…yes, perhaps this will not last. It was never meant to last. But in this moment you are not my brother.

“In this moment, I am your king.”

In the end Thor did not know what it was that made him move. It might have been the simplicity of that outstretched hand, thrust out between the legs spread wide. It spoke of the promise of touch Loki had not granted him once in that Midgardian room even as he spoke in sorrow of the death of their father.

But he reached out now and without second thought Thor grasped the hand, Loki’s long thin fingers tight about his. With a moment Loki had pulled him up, pulled him down, and then Thor was between his legs. A strange soft smile lit his pale features from within as Loki laid the mortal hand unfit for Mjölnir’s weight upon the growing shaft beneath his trousers.

“They always said Mjölnir’s haft was a trifle too short,” Loki whispered, eyes half-narrowed in calculated pleasure. “I think you shall find the same is not true of what your hand might now hold instead.”

It was madness – and a very particular kind of madness, Thor thought in dazed incomprehension. Certainly it was not one he could ever hope to understand. But then so very little of his life had made sense since they had taken the Bifröst to Jötunheimr. It made no less sense than anything else, to moved his hands in a fan of fingertips, to feel the hardening swell beneath the light pressure of his uncertain knowing.

“What does my king wish of me?” he murmured, unable to look up; Loki’s throaty laugh was answer enough even before he twisted the single word of his reply about his tongue like velvet restraint.

“Everything.”

“You do not ask for much.”

Again Loki’s amusement resonated low in his throat, the thrum of bass beneath the flashy brilliance of melody high above. “Ah, but a king should have to ask for nothing.”

So much of everything of his life in these days seemed too much like a dream. But then so much too had been the cold unreality of a nightmare. Loki was warm, Loki was familiar, and though nothing about the moment was anything so simple Thor’s fingers still worked over the trousers until at last he had been freed.

It had been a truth from those lips, he thinks with half-contained surprise. When he looked up it was to see the quicksilver flicker of a tongue over lower lip, matching the shimmer of green-hued firelight in his eyes. The pupils had expanded wide to a place beyond reason, twinned singularities at the hearts of two dying stars. Mjölnir had been born in such a place – and he felt Loki to be now something like the warhammer, roused conductor of a fresh storm, as he looked down again and saw again how very large his brother was when so aroused.

Thor had never done this for another man. But it felt simple enough to lower his head, to wrap lips about the head and taste something far beyond what he had ever thought to know.

Loki’s gasp moved through his body like lightning current, entire spine shifting into a line of stunned surrender. Thor’s eyes rose, lips still pressed to skin though they had ceased all movement. A moment later Loki rolled his head, looked down his nose and from beneath the lowered darkness of his lashes.

“Oh, will you give up so very quickly, then?”

Hhis brother had presumably meant to sound a warning. Thor still heard a low vulnerability thrumming beneath it. For that he could not help but stare. This could be nothing but a fool’s errand. But then he had been a fool, made by his own hand and by those of far wiser, to fall so far and so fast. In the end only Loki had come; too late to catch, perhaps, but soon enough to drag him from the dirt.

Yet then, as he looked to his brother, armoured chest beginning to rise and fall in quick staccato beat, he thought perhaps Loki had reached out simply because he fell too. Thor knew nothing of what Loki spoke, if even such madness could be true. But he sensed it was. In his truths Loki held all the vulnerability he never displayed in a lie.

You are not my brother.

Not that it mattered. There was only one thing left to them in these inside-out days: each other. And so Thor moved lips up the shaft, finding the skin salty and soft over the rigid flesh beneath. Another low hiss worked free of his brother’s inflexible form, and he thought Loki should not be so easily moved. His control had always been legend. But then Thor did have to wonder how many had truly done anything of this nature for the strange second prince of Asgard.

Thor himself had no inherent skill, only knowledge of how such action could bring pleasure to his own body. With sudden desperate care he moved through self-lessons in the press of lips, the trick of protecting his teeth, the curve of tongue. That, at least, he knew he could apply with ease, despite the basic differences of anatomy. And as he worked his tongue curiously into the slit, he tasted of his brother and felt his mind turn over in sudden surprise.

Though the taste of a woman could only naturally be different, Loki was different again, a higher mystery still. But then he provided no casual fuck, no easy given pleasure. Instead he was the brother he had grown up with, and in such action Thor dipped his head lower still and worked for the precious, fleeting happiness he knew so little about how to engender. With hands upon his thighs, he worked the tensing muscle; something in the rising edginess made it feel as though Loki might spread unseen wings, might fly away before this is ended between them.

Leaning back, he released the glistening cock though his hands pressed him firmly down. “Stay with me, Loki.”

Though Loki could break free so easily, he only shook his head back and forth, horns catching the dim guttering light of what few candelabra stood lit. “It cannot be.”

“Here,” he insisted, throat raw and bleeding with the rasp of emotion hard against its vulnerable shape. “Now.” When he swallowed, everything burned. As they both burned. “If only that.”

“Fool,” he whispered. And then Thor closed his lips over the trembling cock again, drew him deeper and down. It could be called little else than a mistake; he had to pull back, and even then Thor could not catch his breath. The mortal limits of this form gave him favours. But Loki’s low keen gave him drive. Bending forward from the waist, Thor tried again. Never one to turn his back upon battle, he took his brother once more into his mouth and began to move, head twisting like the bow over the instrument of his brother’s pleasure.

Loki’s fingers in his hair now moved hard against his scalp. Too hard, perhaps; it felt to Thor as if Loki wanted to reach into his very brain, to tease loose every half-scattered thought therein and all others slumbering beneath. Even by means of seiðr Thor had never known Loki to be capable of true telepathy, and the crushing weight of such physical hunt brought a protest up from deep in his own throat. Loki was quick, Loki was clever, but it seemed in such a state even he might be capable of forgetting Thor fragile mortal shell.

Then: the arc of hips, the release spilling into his mouth. Thor choked fast, gasped second, swallowed third by pure reflex alone. Leaning back, his hands moved to his mouth though it had long since gone deep in him. Still they shook, still his mind turned over in troubled shock. The taste of him had been almost as sweet as it had been unexpected. It should not have been that way.

I am not your brother.

“What realm?”

Loki’s hazed eyes blinked once, twice; when they rolled towards Thor, they held only the scarcest remnant of lucidity, of once-remembered sanity.

“What realm are you from, if not this one?”

The fierce repetition in combination with the repeated words seemed to call Loki back to some semblance of reality. “Wouldn’t you like to know?” he said, low. A moment later he eased up with spine held in disturbing stiff line, not stopping until his back arched hard and his elbows flanked his knees. “Why would you like to know?” he asked, face very close to Thor’s own, all whispered teasing intimacy. “When you return to Midgard, Heimdall will not heed your call. You will never see me again.”

Loki’s thrown knives always caught their target true, but when twisted by hand they went far deeper than anything as prosaic as mere flesh. “You will leave the throne thus?”

Disbelief only fed Loki’s conviction. “Watch me,” he purred, and a moment later he pushed Thor back and pushed to his feet. Thor put out a hand, made ready to stand himself if so ordered – but then Loki came down to his own knees. There, between his brother and Hliðskjálf, he wore again that faint smile that only made Thor think of burning longships and the spirits that rode easy in their stern.

“I never wanted the throne,” Loki whispered, and Thor felt as though Yggdrasil herself had closed tight roots about his heart and crushed it all to useless fertiliser.

“Brother, what madness is this?”

“No. Not your brother.” The strong hands – so much stronger now; even had he wanted to, in mortal guise Thor could never have protested their force – pushed him to standing. Then, hands came upon his hips before guiding him around, pushing him down.

At that last moment Thor did resist. No mortal had ever been intended to sit in such a place. “But it shall not be for long,” Loki near-crooned, cajoling and calm at the eye of this storm of his making. “Do not fear, brother once-mine; this will be but the work of moments.”

Everything that Loki did to him then felt different again. The hands moved quick over the strange Midgardian fabric and their method of binding, and then his own aching cock came free. Almost at once Loki leaned down, swallowed him whole as if long practised in such obscene arts. Thor had always known that there were many things he had never truly understood about his brother. But with those lips upon his cock the past scarcely seemed to matter, not with the future so fractured and broken. But where Thor had been backward, half-resting upon his drawn-up heels, Loki pressed himself forward in a sinuous twist between Thor’s knees. Arms came up around a narrow waist, drawing him in, drawing him deeper.

It left no room for Thor to buck his hips. Perhaps in his old form he might have done so all the same, breaking the grip simply because he could. But mortal-wrought and near helpless, Thor was now cradled in the possessive grasp of a trueborn god. Every twist of tongue and hum of laughter and loathing was pure sensation like fire – and he was aflame, every nerve blazing longboat-song. With little else to do but seek to hold both him and this moment forever, Thor moved his hands in ceaseless search and wonder; they brushed shoulder, curved spine, lingered upon waist, and dipped close to buttock. A shudder ripped through Loki in answering keen as one accidentally traced the working throat, touching just where Thor had so often held his brother in those lost moments of most intimate confession and trust.

But this was trust of another kind. The horns of his helmet were dangerously close to neck and eye, and in a sudden moment of panic Thor reached out, hand laid upon one. It was only instinct to hold on, to hold tighter. In a way it was little more than an anchor, of a sort. Yet as both hands moved to grasp tight, to rock with the motion of the working head, he felt upon his straining cock the vibration of displeasure low in Loki’s throat. Even as it shot through to Thor’s groin Loki raised a hand to the helm, loosened by cavalier seiðr, and the helmet clattered away.

Thor’s hands found final purchase in the dampness of dark hair. Though he felt he could barely see now, eyes glazed with the rumbling brontide of approaching climax, he thought suddenly that Loki had always been so very unusual: dark-haired, pale of skin, quicker of mind and tongue than brave by sword and shield. Perhaps you are not truly my brother after all. Yet it mattered not. Loki was his. Their bond needed no name.

When his release came it might have made him weep, had he had time enough to even think of tears. When he had reached for Mjölnir, upon Midgard, for the first time since his fall the storm had answered him true. It had thrummed across and then beneath his skin, twisting a joyous path to head and heart and reminding him of the great power stripped away from soul and spirit by the Allfather’s wrath.

This was different, but held true in the same intimate fashion – for he felt the storm beat against him, centred in his groin but more truly felt in his heart. But even as he took his pleasure and satisfaction through his entire self, his heart cracked, his heart threatened breaking. Like Mjölnir, he could not keep this. Like Mjölnir, he would have to let go.

As Thor fell once more to the mortal prison wrought for his penance, Loki leaned at last back upon his heels. A faint trail of white had escaped one corner of his lips, and those set in uneasy line. Before Thor could even imagine finding voice enough to speak Loki raised a finger. With careful watchfulness he swiped it down, caught it all. The long tongue darted out, then moved slow over what he had not swallowed the first time. Loki’s eyes held Thor’s all the time of this…punishment? He could not be truly sure. But despite the fact one round had left him defeated, this mortal body without the stamina or recovery of a god, still his cock twitched in renewed interest.

Loki shook his head, moved smoothly further back. “We are done here.”

“But…” Thor struggled upward, head aching. He needed to stand. Already he could feel the heaviness of the throne calling him back, whispering of knowledge never meant to be given over to such fragile form. “You cannot mean to leave the throne.” He staggered as he stood, and Loki did not even stir slightly to steady him. “Who will sit here, when we both are gone?”

“It is a throne of lies.” Clipped and curt, he turned his back, his armour dissolving once more into the dark graceful lines of Midgardian attire. “Come.”

His own fingers struggled hard over the still unfamiliar fastenings of his own trousers. “Loki—”

But he had left him already. Stumbling, head spinning, Thor pursed him down the stairs – and into chaos. The journey itself passed him by in scarcely a moment, though it felt as if his mind had been rent in two by the laughing scorn of eternity herself. Then he came back to himself, on his knees, heaving into the sand. At his side his brother stood silent and strong, uncaring god before the penitent believer.

“I must go now.”

Thor turned his head, could barely see for his sickness, for Loki’s shimmering brilliance. “Home?”

“Oh, yes,” he said, dark satisfaction curling about the words like sharpened blades. Thor winced.

“And where is that home?”

“It shan’t matter soon enough.” Suddenly he was upon his knees, clasping Thor’s face between his palms, eyes wide. “I just had to see your face again,” he said, fierce and abruptly vulnerable; the years had stripped themselves clean away, and for a dizzying moment Thor felt as though he spoke once more to his brother of centuries long past. “I just…I just wanted to share your throne. Just once.”

“Both of us were born to be kings,” Thor rasped, voice ragged with acid burn and misery, and Loki bit his lip hard enough to bleed.

“And we shall die having tasted that glory.” But all Thor tasted was salted iron as Loki leaned in, whispered against his lips: “Goodbye, brother.”

“I thought you said we were no such thing.”

“I thought the distinction mattered.” The second kiss was deeper, a twisted knife of misery and melancholy alike. “But it really doesn’t.”

When Loki drew back, long before Thor could ever think himself ready, there was no flash, no drama to it. His exit through the secret paths between realms held nothing of the Bifröst’s spectacle. Loki was simply gone.

The town lights sparkled in vague invitation further up the road. He accepted it with dull resignation, feet heavy with every step he took away from his brother’s memory. Later, in the laboratory, he told Jane a half-hearted tale of daring escape. She watched with narrowed eyes, made him another cup of coffee, and somehow knew to keep her mouth closed.

He might someday love her for that. Loki had been the same way, once.

Later still, upon the roof, Thor still felt the dampness of the storm upon the air as he wrapped himself in the scratchy blanket and stared at the sky.

“What happens when a star goes out?”

At first Jane let the sudden question rest unanswered. Then, she frowned. “We won’t even see it for years and years.” One hand rose, cut an arc across the unfamiliar sky. “To us, it might as well still be alive, whether it truly is or not.” He could feel the dark eyes upon him now, calculating in their concern. “Why?”

But Thor just stared at the foreign constellation and knew there was nothing more to say.