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“If you were a lower creature, what would you be?” Loki mused once, long ago.

Thor pondered the question briefly, pushing a lock of blond behind his ear. “A lion, perhaps,” he shrugged at last. “Or a bear.”

“Strong and noble beasts, certainly,” Loki laughed, finger to his lips; his own replies—clever raven, slim-fanged serpent—were known for less honored attributes. And then he turned a triumphant smile on Thor. “But I could see you better as a pup.”

Thor had shoved his brother off balance, a playful retribution in protest. But even then he’d felt that it was somehow right, even if he didn't admit it. A pup. Loyal and devoted and obedient, beloved and cherished.

Loki righted himself by threatening to pull his brother down with him.

Thor grinned and let him.

*

With his cheek rested against folded hands Thor lies at the foot of Loki’s bed, loyal and obedient, waiting upon his master’s call. He is unsure when it will come, for Loki is reading, legs kicked out wide, his engrossed expression serene and untroubled, a small book held up in one hand so that the cozy light of the room falls across its pages.

The room is quiet but for the crackle of the fire that keeps the air pleasantly warm and the low sound of night wind. The open window lets in subtle scents that tease at the edge of Thor’s awareness.

After some minutes Thor whines. As on every other such evening, the familiar magical constriction is on his throat, a light band of pressure like an unseen collar, a tightness that leaves him with little more than whimpers and growls. And Thor is loyal, if not wholly patient, but the noise is a quiet one. He is good, and he does not wish to disturb Loki’s reading.

Loki’s eyes only flick casually to him before he pats the space beside him. “All right. Come here,” Loki says.

Something warm unfurls in Thor’s chest as he bounds up in an instant, overwhelmed with happiness. He turns and sits beside Loki, and then curls up around him, his head in Loki’s lap, his body pressed close. Within easy reach of Loki’s hand, which rises to stroke down Thor’s side almost unthinkingly.

At any other time, Loki is not like this. Loki’s hand only leaves off petting Thor when he must turn the page. At every other moment, Loki’s slender fingers touch him with unadorned tenderness. Slip through his hair with a glide of fingernails. Slide behind Thor’s neck and stroke there. Little ritual motions, slow, lulling. His palm curls around Thor’s shoulder. He pets down the line of his back. He touches Thor, and Thor can’t get enough of it. It is comfort and contentedness and even when he brims with excitement he will lie still for this.

Thor nestles against his master.

His master scratches him lightly behind the ears, and then he speaks, voice soft and amused. “My brother is angry with me,” Loki says, leaning over briefly to look into his eyes, pausing in his reading. “It seems I have been doing mischief again. I simply cannot behave myself.”

Thor hears only the cadence of his master’s voice. The words barely register; their meaning is lost on him. It is enough to know his master is speaking to him—and Thor returns his gaze, proud to be worthy of his master’s attention.

Loki seems to know all of this; he laughs lightly and ruffles his hair and returns to his book. But Loki’s fingers stroking him are a constant. Loki pets him, strokes his hair, caresses him. It is a sort of touch that Thor has grown addicted to, for it is not something that Loki does otherwise, and no one else has ever touched Thor in quite the same way. Unhurried, with casual intimacy, every touch marking Thor as his.

Thor has always been sensual by nature, and Loki knows it.

Sometimes Loki bathes his pet, and Thor could not have imagined how much he enjoys it. The way Loki washes his hair, fingertips massaging his scalp as he leans into the touch, and the way Loki soaps him all over as he sits naked in the half-filled tub. Loki scrubs behind his ears, runs lathered hands up and down his front, rubbing at his nipples with a flick of his thumbs and circling on his belly in a way that makes a sound of pleased contentment well up in Thor’s throat. Loki washes between his legs meticulously enough to make him wriggle until Loki calms him with a stern word. And then, oh, then Loki pours bucket after bucket of steaming hot water over him, the water pounding on the back of his shoulders and cascading down along his spine and dripping from his elbows. The heat gets into his muscles and makes him relax until he can’t help but moan, blissful, and even then, Loki’s hands are on him, slicking away water and making sure he’s fully rinsed.

Thor always gives his head a playful shake when it’s over, water droplets flying, and Loki laughs before wrapping him in a towel and scuffing him with it until he’s dry.

Thor lies curled, half in Loki’s lap, and—because dogs do not wear clothes, naturally—he is completely naked. Loki is not, wearing a pair of dark breeches, soft loose things that must be just as comfortable on his body as they are pressed against Thor’s cheek. His hair still just a bit damp, Thor nuzzles against the thin fabric, and he huffs a breath against the inner dip of Loki’s thigh, inhaling deeply. Loki's scent is intoxicating, and just here it is mixed with the faint odor of sex, impossible to resist. Thor nuzzles and pants against the soft cloth until he feels his master’s cock stirring beneath, and then his eyes flicker upward, past the pale plane of Loki’s bare chest, to his master’s face. Loki is watching him, the book closed over his thumb, a smile tugging at the corner of his mouth.

Loki’s hand trails down his side, skims his belly, touches him between his legs; he’s half-hard just from the lazy pleasure of lying pressed against his master’s warm body, and his organ hardens more fully as a single finger brushes along the sensitive skin of his balls.

What he wants to do then—what he usually does in these moments—is to rearrange himself, puppy whines spilling from his mouth, to find a position in which to lie where he can rub himself against his master’s leg at the same time as Loki allows him to lick, wet and sloppy. He wants to show his master how good of a pup he is, and he can’t resist the urge to lick his way across Loki’s skin. He wants to please his master well and then lap up the taste of Loki, clean him with his tongue. As he cannot speak it seems the only way to tell his master how much he loves him—how, even if Loki had been cruel, beaten him, scolded him, rapped him on the nose hard enough to sting for every naughty exuberance to which Thor knows he is prone, Thor could not have done anything other than love him. But Loki does nothing like that, giving only the gentlest discipline, compelling his obedience with rewards rather than punishment so that Thor practically falls over himself to obey. He wants to be a good pup. He wants his master to be pleased with him. The sound of Loki’s praise buzzes and spreads under his skin, and he craves it nearly as much as he craves his touches.

But this time, Loki’s hand moves away after only moments, moves up to stroke more modestly along his side. He can feel that his master is distracted. Loki calms his nervous, uncertain whine with a low shush and a firm pat against Thor’s ribs just before he starts to speak again.

“My brother agrees with all the rest that I shouldn’t escape punishment,” Loki says, the contemplative rise and fall of words flowing softly over Thor’s ears. “He told me that, very loudly. He doesn’t like it, of course; it pains him to think what the Allfather will decree is fitting this time, for a simple, harmless deception against a rather unimportant ambassador from Svartalfheim. But my brother won’t speak against whatever he decides, will even assist in my punishment if so ordered, because I deserve it. After all, I am guilty, and everyone knows it.”

Thor presses his face against Loki’s leg and curls his body tighter. His master’s voice—he may not know the meaning of the words, but he can feel the tension, the distress. It catches on his heart. He wants to whimper, wants to growl. He wants to bite whoever it is that has upset his master so.

He also cannot help but think of the last time his master went away, returning in a dark, pensive mood, and Thor thought he could see a few thin, white hashmark scars on Loki’s mouth. Loki’s eyes had burned with vengeance.

Not against him. Not against him. But it was the only time his master had ever been cold with him, withholding any affection, leaving him to sit lonesome beside the bed for what felt like hours.

And then his master had actually put on him a collar of thick, unforgiving leather, and affixed a short length of leash to it. Experimentally, Loki had tried to lead him around the room, calling him to heel. Thor had balked, unsure what to do or what was expected of him, had pulled back against the leash until the collar tightened on his neck, cutting off his breath. He had yipped and cried and howled and sank down on his haunches. He had wanted his master to comfort him against this strange new experience. He had wanted his master to kneel beside him and reassure him, to guide him as he usually would and allow Thor to lick wet kisses on his face in return.

But Loki had only frowned and turned his back. “You’re not very obedient today, Thor,” he had said, and Thor’s heart had pounded when he saw what was in Loki’s hand as he returned. He had panicked. But Loki kept a firm grip on the leash and didn’t let him pull away. “Don’t struggle. I can’t have you being noisy, but I only do this to teach you. I don’t enjoy doing it.”

His master’s look was so honestly sorrowful that Thor froze, sat numbly still as Loki tightened the straps of the muzzle on his head, the fragrant, supple leather running above his nose and under his chin, across his mouth and behind his neck, holding his jaw firmly shut.

When it was done he hung his head and didn’t even try to paw at the contraption. He had displeased his master. He deserved this.

Aching inside, he had crawled to where Loki stood by the window. He pressed his belly to the ground, trying to show his submission, his vulnerability, and put his nose to Loki’s boots, wishing he could lick them. Closed his eyes, the lids stinging. A few muffled sounds seeped out from deep in his throat no matter how he tried to stifle them.

That night, when Loki at last allowed it, letting him climb onto the bed beside him, Thor was almost glad for the muzzle—he knew he couldn’t have kept quiet otherwise as Loki began to stroke him, fingers prodding and invading and encircling. He was too pent up to do more than wriggle pathetically, hoping that it meant Loki had forgiven him when an arm wrapped around him and pulled him close as he shook.

A tremor goes through him now at the agitation in his master’s voice. He can feel that his master is watching him, green eyes catching every movement, every twitch.

“But you love me no matter what I do, don’t you?”

Thor fills his chest deeply. It is unquestionable; in this there is no uncertainty, no doubt. Even if his master were bad. Even if his master were cruel. Thor is devoted and obedient. Thor is loyal. He will always love Loki, without reservation.

He would do whatever his master asks, and Loki trails a hand down the bare curve of his flank, the touch possessive. Thor buries his nose against Loki’s skin, breathes in his scent. The fire crackles in the hearth as he closes his eyes.

Thor wants to be nowhere else than here. Wants this to never end. This is his whole world, and everything is simple.

And Loki’s hand pauses just long enough to push a lock of blond back behind his ear.