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Unwelcome.

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It’s not often that Loki enjoys battle. He’s usually more than happy to let the others throw themselves in harm’s way while he watches from afar, but there’s something to be said for the thrill of a close-quarter fight with magic.

The rogue band of Dark Elves causing trouble at the edge of Asgard is made mostly of spell-casters and this means that Loki is the most well-equipped to deal with them. They still fall when they are struck by Thor’s lightning, or cut down by the blades of Sif and the Warriors Three, but it’s Loki’s knowledge that they are all relying on now.

It’s just the six of them against a band of fifteen Elves, but the odds are still in their favour. Especially when Loki creates enough illusions to match their numbers.

“Your tricks don’t impress us, princeling,” the leader of the group snarls. The Elves lash out at the doubles, weapons passing through them until they’ve narrowed them all down to the real Loki.

“Thor,” Loki calls, conjuring more illusions. “Now.”

This time, the Elves cut through the fakes much quicker. Loki is not concerned; he can feel the crackle of electricity in the air around them already. His talents lie in keeping the enemy distracted; it’s Thor’s job to finish it and get all the glory.

“I developed this spell specially for you,” the Elf before Loki says, raising his hands. Loki’s eyes narrow when he realises that one of the hands is pointed at his brother.

“Thor—”

“—Now,” Thor replies, and the clouds above them rumble as a bright flash of lightning fills the sky.

Then, two things happen at once in very quick succession. Loki sees the magic gathering in the Elf’s palms, just before the lightning makes his vision go white. He hears the cries of pain as the lightning strikes its targets, smells the burning flesh, and blinks until his vision clears.

He opens his eyes just in time to see Thor crumple to the ground.

THOR!” Loki screams, unleashing a wave of magic that utterly destroys the remains of the Elves. He runs to his brother’s side, rolling him onto his back.

“What happened?” Fandral asks, sounding worried. “He just fell.”

Thor’s body looks lifeless and Loki struggles to think around the sheer panic that grips him. He cannot lose Thor like this. Not now. He desperately checks for a pulse, for any sign of life and the less he finds, the harder it is to ignore the pressure in his head, all his thoughts crashing into ne another so loudly that it hurts. Until—

Loki?

His eyes snap open. “Thor.”

Loki, where am I? I am seeing—wait, is that me? What is happening?

Clutching at his head, Loki frowns as he tries to piece it all together. Now that he’s calmed down, Loki can feel the light tingle that tells him that he’s shaken off a spell. He presses his hand to the centre of Thor’s unmoving chest and once he actually starts looking for it, he can feel the magic clearly.

“Oh, the fools,” he mutters, shaking his head.

We were hit with a spell? Thor demands in his mind. What is happening?

Be quiet, Loki thinks at Thor, frowning as he tries to figure out a way to reverse the spell.

“What is wrong?” Sif asks, approaching. When she sees Loki crouched over Thor’s body, she stops in her tracks. “He’s… dead, isn’t he?”

“He’s not,” Loki replies, his voice calm even though he isn’t. “He was hit by a spell that threw him out of his body. He’s currently taking up residence in my head.”

Fandral gives Loki a despairing look. “Now is not the time for jokes.”

A surge of anger courses through Loki. Of course they don’t take him seriously. They never did and now without Thor here to vouch for him…

I never realised they made you feel this way. Thor’s voice sounds apologetic.

“Argh,” Loki growls aloud, shaking his head. The last thing he needs right now is for Thor to be reading every one of his thoughts. His mind had been his sanctuary, the one place he was free to do as he pleased, to think as he pleased and now he doesn’t even have that.

“You don’t believe me?” Loki asks, ignoring the way Thor is apologising in the back of his mind. “Then speak to him yourselves.”

With a thought, Loki pushes with his mind, forcing himself down and Thor to the surface.

“—never realised that I… Oh.” The words are still spoken in Loki’s voice, but have an utterly different tone about them now. “My friends, you need not worry. I am fine. Loki speaks the truth.”

“Well, there’s a first time for everything,” Volstagg quips, and Loki’s irritation is so sharp that it makes Thor hiss.

“You do not believe us and I agree, this is all very strange even to me. But if we go to speak to my father, I am sure he will fix everything.”

The others exchange uncertain looks but finally, Hogun nods. Volstagg bends to pick Thor’s body up, leaving Mjölnir where it landed when he fell.

We’ll come back for your hammer later, Loki tells Thor, when his gaze lingers on it. We have more important matters to attend to first.

Thor is reluctant to move and Loki reclaims control of his body, turning away and following the others back to the palace.

You can do as you like in your own body, Loki tells him, but in mine, you will do as I say, or you will remain locked at the back of my mind until I find a way you get you out.

Fine, brother. Thor’s sulk is perfectly clear just through the sound of his thoughts. Loki sighs in frustration. The sooner Thor is out, the better.

Am I really bothering you that much? Thor asks and he sounds hurts, I had no idea.

“Damn it, Thor,” Loki growls under his breath. You’re perfectly tolerable when you aren’t in my head. That is what bothers me.

Oh. Thor sounds mollified, and remains silent as they make their way to the throne room.

All of the guards who see Volstagg carrying Thor’s limp body look stricken, and in the time it takes to get from the entrance of the palace to the doors of the throne room, the news has already reached Odin. He stands there, grim-faced and waiting for them. Loki is certain that he can even hear maidens weeping and he rolls his eyes.

Look around, brother. See how they mourn you already. What would Asgard do without its golden prince?

Thor sounds surprised when he asks, Are you jealous, Loki? They would mourn you just the same.

Fool, Loki thinks venomously, and leaves it at that. He pushes past Volstagg and the others, approaching their father.

“Worry not, your son still lives.”

Odin’s eye is wet and he blinks, looking at Loki. “You have an explanation for this?”

Loki nods. “Sorcery, father. The Dark Elves meant to weaken us with their trickery and then kill us.”

“That doesn’t sound like anyone we know at all,” he hears Fandral mutter and balls his hands into fists.

Ignoring it, he continues, “Thor’s soul is sharing my body at the moment. It must be returned to its proper place, but I know not the spell required.”

“I do,” Odin replies, and relief courses through Loki. “But you must learn it for yourself. If anyone else casts it, the chances of it going awry are too high. We must be as careful as possible. I will not lose both my sons at once.”

“Tell me what I require. I will endeavour to fix this as soon as possible.”

“I know you will, Loki.” Odin sounds proud, and confident in Loki’s abilities. It makes Loki feel warm and pleased, and immediately self-conscious, knowing that Thor feels everything he does.

Do you think I react any differently? Thor asks, amused. No matter how many centuries pass, I doubt I will ever stop feeling happy when I make father proud.

You make him proud more often than I do.

Loki can feel Thor’s frown. How would you know?

Because I pay attention, Loki replies, irritated. Of course it would never occur to Thor. Of course not.

“I will arrange for all the necessary materials to be brought to your chambers,” Odin speaks, an understanding look in his eye. He must know that Loki’s silence is because his thoughts are being taken up by Thor.

“We would most appreciate it,” Loki replies and glances behind him at Volstagg. “I will need you to move Thor to my room as well.”

Sif frowns, “But should he not be taken to the healing room?”

“It would be of little use to him now,” Odin replies in Loki’s stead. “His soul must be returned to his body first. To do that, Loki will require Thor’s body for the spell.”

Loki very carefully tries not to think snide thoughts about Sif’s lack of knowledge, but judging from the sense of disapproval he gets from Thor, he doesn’t quite manage it. Ignoring his brother, Loki leads the way out of the throne room, barely glancing at Volstagg. “Come.”

Of course, all four of them follow. It’s like a funeral procession through the halls of the palace with Loki leading the way. It’s a discomforting thought, and Loki can’t tell whether than discomfort comes from him, Thor, or both of them.

«·»

Undoing a spell is always more difficult than casting it, and Thor is of no help at all. He’ll only ever be quiet for a handful of minutes at a time before losing his patience.

Have you made any progress?

“Damn you, Thor,” Loki spits, losing track of his place in the incantation he’s trying to memorise. It’s the fifth time this has happened within the hour. He gets up from his chair and paces the room. “You can hear my very thoughts. You know this requires my full concentration—and that I need to do this if you ever want to be back in your own body. Yet you persist in disturbing me. How is anybody that thoughtless? Exactly how many times did the nurses drop you on your head when we were children?”

I apologise. I only wanted to check on you. It’s… unsettling to be nothing more than words in your mind. Especially when you do not want to hear me.

Loki runs a hand through his hair and sighs quietly. “I apologise. Is there anything that you would like to do? Perhaps I could use a break.”

Thor’s gratitude is warm and pleasant. I would like to return to the battlefield. For Mjölnir.

Loki hesitates, not knowing how to reply. He doubts that even with Thor in his head, he will be able to lift the hammer. But if he can… if this is his one chance…

It is worth a try, Thor ventures hopefully and Loki nods, mostly to himself.

“Fine. We will go.”

The servants they pass just outside Loki’s chambers are overly kind to him, knowing that he is responsible for bringing Thor back. Instead of their attention feeling gratifying, it serves to makes Loki bitter. The only reason they care to acknowledge him at all is because of Thor. Once everything is back to normal, this too will go back to how it was, Loki going ignored by most of the Æsir and Vanir unless he demands their attention.

Why do you think this way? Thor asks, sounding genuinely surprised. I do not hear anything about people ignoring you, or people thinking less of you than they do of me.

Loki feels a rush of fondness for Thor. His poor, well-meaning, naïve brother.

There is much that never reaches your ears. Haven’t you ever heard your friends mutter under their breath at me?

In his own body, Thor would be frowning. Loki can visualise it as he hears Thor’s words. As Volstagg did earlier? I thought he was just…?

“Just what?” Loki mutters aloud. They never do it within earshot of Thor, but they must not have realised that he would be heard this time. And it’s not just Thor’s friends either.

I can show you, if you would like, Loki offers, and proceeds to take the long way to the palace gates. They pass countless guards and servants, and by the time they’re out of the dors, Thor is furious. He pushes at the edges of Loki’s mind, as though he can take control and turn back around to confront all those they have passed.

Why do you allow them to speak of you like this? he demands, and his anger is a strange contrast to Loki’s own indifference. They know you can hear them.

Of course they do, Loki replies. They do it on purpose.

How can you stand it? If it were me—

But it’s not, Loki replies sharply. They are all beneath me. Their words mean nothing.

Thor is silent as Loki walks to the very edge of Asgard, where the ground is still blackened from the earlier battle. Loki’s residual magic hangs in the air, scared and desperate and angry. Loki shudders, remembering feeling all of that as he’d watched Thor collapse to the ground.

It was the first thing I felt in your body, Thor tells him. Unbearable sadness. You thought me dead.

“Shut up,” Loki mutters, making his way across the battlefield to where Mjölnir still lies. The earth around it is cracked from the impact with which it fell and Loki stands before it, flexing his fingers.

This isn't going to work.

A wave of reassurance settles over him, coming from Thor.

It may not. But it is still worth trying.

Loki nods, taking a deep breath and allowing Thor to take control. It feels so incredibly strange to sit back in his own mind and allow someone else to do as they wish. He doubts that it would be as easy with anyone other than Thor. There's nobody he trusts more, and the thought makes Thor smile.

“That means a lot to me.”

Can you please just do what we came here for? Loki requests impatiently. The sooner we get back, the sooner I can get my head around this spell.

And the sooner Thor is out of his head, the fewer thoughts Loki will unintentionally reveal. He's a fiercely private person, and he isn't enjoying this at all.

“I apologise, Loki,” Thor murmurs. “I will take Mjölnir and we can leave."

Loki is not holding his breath. Thor bends and Loki can feel his hand wrapping around Mjölnir’s handle, familiar in Thor’s mind but completely alien to Loki at the same time.

His mind fills with happiness—Thor’s happiness—and confidence, and Loki wonders if Thor feels this way every time he lifts his hammer. Then Thor pulls and… nothing happens. Mjölnir doesn’t move in the slightest and Loki, who had been caught up in all of it, can’t help but to feel disappointed.

It’s quickly replaced by bitterness. I told you that it wouldn’t work. It might be your soul, Thor, but it’s my body and clearly, I’m not worthy enough to lift your hammer.

I am sorry. Thor truly does sound it. If it were up to me…

But it’s up to Father, isn’t it? Loki replies icily. He clearly doesn’t think me worthy. I am unsurprised. It’s clear that he favours you.

Loki. Thor sounds distressed. You must know that Father loves us equally.

“Do me a favour, Thor,” Loki sneers, “and leave the lying to those of us who actually have the talent for it.”

Thor has no reply for him, and instead of making Loki glad, it only makes him lonely. Knowing Thor can feel this makes him angry and it’s an endless spiral until he returns to his room, feeling utterly wretched.

Thor leaves him alone and Loki does not waste his time. Sitting down in front of his spellbook, he practices the incantations under his breath until they come without thought. The box of magic stones sits on the floor and Loki arranges them all carefully, checking over everything with a critical eye.

Finally, it’s time for the spell. He needs to move Thor’s body into the circle and he knows from enough nights of drunken revelry that he’s more than capable of supporting Thor’s weight when necessary. Standing up, Loki pauses to take in the sight of Thor spread out upon his bed.

The pang of lust that runs through him cannot be masked as anything else. He yearns and knows that Thor can tell exactly what he feels. The guilt and humiliation are quick to follow, but he is conscious of Thor’s presence in his mind once again, and knows exactly what he is focusing on.

I give you these feelings. Thor’s thoughts don’t even sound like a question before of the tone of pure wonder. Like this is something new, that he has never noticed before.

He probably hasn’t and oh, Loki desperately wishes that he would think of something else before he bares the whole truth to Thor. Of course, the harder he tries to think of something else, the more his mind betrays him. He can actually feel Thor reeling from the onslaught of emotion; the desperation and the hatred and the love, so much stronger than anything else Loki has felt in his entire life.

Loki…

Silence. Loki’s hands are shaking as he grabs Thor’s body by the shoulders, hauling him up. He stumbles as Thor mentally reaches out to him again. Just go back to being so quiet that I could pretend you weren’t in my head. I hate you.

You do not hate me, Thor replies gently, patiently. You cannot lie to yourself, so you cannot lie to me at this moment.

I hate you, Loki thinks viciously. I do.

So you do, Thor admits. But you love me more.

Loki shakes his head, and the sob that escapes is entirely unintentional; yet another thing on the long list of today’s humiliations.

“Will you be quiet so I can cast this spell?” Loki asks into the room and Thor gives his assent, going silent once again.

The spell, so carefully rehearsed, is easy when Loki finally casts it. He cries out in pain as Thor’s soul is drawn out of his body and returned to its rightful place, already feeling emptier. He curls in on himself, not intending to move until Thor has left—no doubt to reclaim Mjölnir. What he doesn’t expect is for Thor’s arms to wrap around him, lifting him up to sit properly.

Loki’s head rests on Thor’s chest and he blinks in confusion, twisting around to look at his brother.

“Let go of me.”

“No,” Thor replies simply, his grip tightening. “Do you really think I could let you go, after everything you let me feel?”

“I didn’t let you,” Loki huffs. “You were entirely unwelcome in my head at the time.”

“But you already miss me,” Thor says, and Loki wants to curse him for being right. “Just as I already miss you. I spent not even a day in your mind and learned more about the way you think than I could ever have hoped to know.”

“Or ever wanted to know,” Loki mutters.

“You are so wrapped up in your belief that you are inferior that you fail to see what is plain before you. Not that I am any better.” Thor rests his chin on Loki’s shoulder. “And before you say it—I will thank you not to question the sincerity of what I feel. You did tell me to leave the lies to someone better.”

“You are insane,” Loki declares.

“And you,” Thor replies gently, taking Loki’s chin in his hand, “are not as insane as you believe yourself to be. Or as weak, or as pathetic, or…”

“Thor,” Loki breathes, their noses brushing against each other.

“Loki. Will you trust me?”

With a barely perceptible nod, Loki does. His eyes slide shut as Thor kisses him, beard prickly and lips dry.

Loki’s never felt anything more perfect. With the way Thor is smiling, they don’t need to be sharing a body for Loki to know that he is thinking the exact same thing.