“Your father is coming.”
Loki did not stir from his vigil, fingers light upon the blade’s ornate bone handle. “He is not my father.”
“Depends on your idea of what makes a father, I guess.” The beast, clothed now in his human skin with all attendant pretence, took a seat with clumsy grace on the other side of Thor’s bed. One hand rose to press at the thick arm of his glasses, the uncertain compulsion of nervous energy. “But…point taken.”
Sight and sound provided only some of the information Loki required to keep constant attention upon his surroundings and any change therein. To fill those gaps his seiðr thrummed through spaces both seen and unseen, a near-living creature extended from body and soul: seeking searching tendrils of energy invisible and unheard. Yet it felt an uncomfortable comparison, considering the bondage of the body before him. Loki kept his eyes upon his brother, and curled his lip around his next words. “You have not summoned your comrades,” he observed. The mortal’s answer came with a tilted head, and genuine curiosity.
“Would you like me to?”
“Do you feel I have much need of an audience?”
The consideration he gave the answer seemed entirely disproportionate to the mildness of his tone. “Generally, I’d say yes.” The dark eyes remained upon him, watchful and waiting in the manner of a mortal scientist searching for answers he knew not the nature of. “But given the way you’ve kept this on the down low so far, I’m thinking you’re not looking for one today.”
Loki held his silence. The mortals had little information to offer him, and he had been long enough in his not-brother’s silent company to understand much of what had befallen him but two Midgardian days before.
And oh, what delight there is in this, to know of the irony that the mighty Thor could be brought so low by so simple a creature!
“You know exactly what is wrong with him, don’t you?”
There was curiosity but very little hope in the man’s voice. Loki saw little need to indulge in either invitation. The physical aspect of Thor’s condition was obvious even to untrained eyes: a plant, of a sort, had invaded his body. Long tendrils lazily wound about limb and torso, spreading from a roseate centre that rested as a living thing above the slow rhythm of a peaceful heart. If one dared to tug at stem or shoot, they would draw back just far enough to reveal whisper-thin hairs slinking through skin and into muscle and nerve. Loki had seen enough of his brother’s body to know that his foolish companions had tried to remove them, and more than once. Their failure had left scars, both upon Thor and his uninvited companion. But they were not to be separated. The more they were drawn apart, the tighter it had clung.
“And he fought you, didn’t he.”
The mortal’s shift of weight was uncomfortable, thoughtful. “He did,” he granted, words spoken through the filter of a faint grimace. “He’s unconscious, but still he fights. Every moment.” A hint of pride coloured the bleakness of the truth of Thor’s lonely labours, and Loki shook his head to dispel any and all such nonsense.
“No.” His hands remained upon the bed but a mere breath from his brother’s overheated skin. “He does not fight the creature – he fights those who would tear them asunder.” His smile burned, though he knew not who. “He dreams, Dr. Banner.”
They did not know this. There really was no way they could, given the narrow limitations of their mortal perception. Vague disappointment teased the edges of Loki’s mind all the same as the man’s brow furrowed, confusion in full blossom. “He dreams? …of what?”
Loki’s imperious reticence ought to have been answer enough. But of course the mortal persisted. In that, he could admit to some grim amusement. They had such short lives, after. Such self-centredness seemed very nearly natural to their tiny little minds.
“Do you know?”
And Loki’s smile had perished utterly. “Yes,” he said, low and unforgiving. “Yes, I know of what my brother dreams.”
Unspoken he left that which no mortal had the right to know: and how I wish I did not.
The golden halls are aglitter and peaceful, the realm balanced perfectly upon the cusp of summer and autumn. The trees beyond the open-sided corridors are turning their leaves in a symphony of gold and bronze and burning scarlet-crimson, and the skies above are clear and as blue as the warm contentedness he had first found in his mother’s eyes. But Loki walks these imagined halls as a wraith, a shadow: someone who does not belong. But then he never has. It makes no difference, to be not even as a memory in a place that promised love, and in the end gifted only betrayal.
The rains have been recent in these gardens, for all the skies have now cleared. There remains still a dampness to the world beyond the walls of the palace, but it limns the world in bright clarity. All scents seem sharper, enriching the familiar fragrance of the queen’s beloved gardens. It seems like renewal, like regeneration. And Loki tugs his imagined cloak tighter about his thin shoulders and steps quicker into the deeper corridors, the deeper centres of his brother’s reverie and dream-desire.
The heraldry has changed, he notes. These new banners undulate in the soft breeze, adorned with hammer and horn. Red and gold, and trimmed in watchful green, they are undeniably Thor’s – but they are those of a king and not a prince merely waiting for that place. Loki is reminded of the new standard crafted for his brother in the moons before his coronation, though these are not as those had been. There is something different about them that he cannot quite put a finger on.
With head bent, he pauses not to unravel such pointless mystery. Looking deeper holds little appeal – somehow he simply does not want to. It is all part of his brother’s fantasy, and while Loki has long known the inciting devils who lurk in such details, he suspects he already grasps the basic oddity of the redrawn device. The closer he comes to the chambers at the heart of the suite, the more he hears – and the more he understands something that he has always known would one day come to pass. Thor has his kingdom, now; it is only natural that he too should have his consort.
The great bedchamber is one that Loki had once known almost as well as his own. They had shared chambers as children, but even when older the brothers had moved in and out of one or the other as easily as they once had the space they had shared. Time had changed such things eventually; much as Thor had been long ago expelled from the shadows and secrets of Loki’s chambers while ever letting his brother come still to his own, Loki knows he will not be welcome here now. Thor has chosen to share his spaces with another. Sif, perhaps. A curl of his lip just barely stays a chuckle of bitter laughter; certainly it would be her deepest fantasy.
But he is not of this place, he merely walks in the mind of his brother: and so it is but the work of a thought to move through the barred doors and slip through antechamber and morning room and vestibule until he stands silent and unseen at the foot of the great bed. Despite the tumble of feather pillows and hunted furs, it is not hard to see that two bodies lie entangled there. It makes sense: for all Thor is great unto himself, he is a generous person in affection and loyalty. He would never sleep well alone.
Of course, they sleep not now. The sighs are low harmony to the rhythm of their flesh, bare skin a symphony of slap and thrust. Loki knows he should look away. Something prickles across his skin like low warning, admonishing him to turn and leave his brother to the secrets of his own mind.
As it has always been, as it will always be for the god of mischief and lies and wrought chaos, curiosity drives him forward. This is something of his brother he has never known. It is something of his brother he ought never know.
And so, he would know it.
The pressure of his hips drives harder, the one beneath pulling closer. The working muscles of buttock and back glisten, taut and tight; given the dryness of his throat, Loki knows could not speak now even if he thought he would have been heard. His beautiful brother, who should be animalistic as he ruts like a dog slaved to its basest instincts, is instead even more divine here than in the heat of battle and glory. And yet, for all he throws himself into this engagement with the physicality and natural grace Loki has seen time and again in training and in war, there is an odd gentle grace to his every thrust and parry.
Loki’s brow creases at the peculiarity of that. He has seen his brother fight with berserker rage; he has felt the burn and blade of it himself at the mercy of both hammer and those great hands. He knows when Thor hits hard and then knows too when he holds back: in their battles Thor has fought both to harm and to help, and his startling control will always surprise him to this day.
He sees such displayed before him now, and in that knows the creature mewling beneath him to be fragile and strange. Not Sif, then. Never Sif; she is not glass, and Thor would never fear breaking her. Likely his mortal woman, then. Bile burns in his throat, lurching his stomach sideways. Of course Thor would be gentle with such delicate beauty. He would not wish to harm her.
A moment later all changes. A hand rises, clenching fingers seeking purchase – and they find it in golden skin, nails digging half-crescents in working muscle. All is familiar: the grasp, the curve, the pale blue-veined skin. Cold comes over Loki, even before the revelation brings itself to hateful life. He does not know who voices it. It likely does not matter. It is both truth and lie no matter whose lips, whose breath, whose deep gifted pleasure given to the air like song of fire and release.
“Do you know who did this to him?”
“No.” Though it would have been the work of few moments to discover who, Loki had from the beginning had little interest in doing so. The man’s scepticism held no surprise for him. Loki had often proved to the Avengers and their allies that he would allow few to harm Thor; such a boon was a gift reserved for his hand alone.
You live or you die by my will, not-brother mine.
The taste of the words felt like bitter ash in his mouth even before the mortal spoke again. “How long have you known of his…condition?”
“Long enough.” One hand moved upward, a nonchalant regal wave of finger and palm. “You had begun to think, perhaps, that I would not take the opportunity to gloat over his downtrodden state, no matter who might have engendered it?”
“Maybe I’ve just spent too much time around Tony, but if that’s what you’re doing, this just seems awfully low-key.” A pause, and then his eyes widened. Blunt fingers moved behind the lens of one eye, rubbed hard at the closed lid. “Oh, God, I didn’t mean to say that. I’m so sorry.”
Loki had no idea of what the mortal had said that so distressed him. He also did not care. Instead his eyes remained upon the unmoving form of his once brother. So little had changed since he had first seen him this way, wrapped in tendrils that sought to strip away both his immortal life and the great vitality with which Thor blundered through it.
The first moment he had come to his knees at his fallen brother’s side, Loki had laid his hands upon him and felt the damage wrought by the alien creature. Even in that merest of beginnings he had felt no doubt at all that Thor would be dead in but another few days, by the reckoning of his pet mortals. But then he’d known that even before he had come. For all they were not blood brothers it seemed their estrangement had only made it stronger, that which had always been there: a quiet sense of one another and any distress the other might be in. It could not be explained by sorcery, given the seiðr Thor possessed by way of inheritance was elemental and linked almost entirely to Mjölnir. In days of ago both had simply assumed it the link of siblings, of those bound by the blood of the Allfather.
Yet there had been no shared blood between them, either then or now. And a shudder rocked through his torso, slithered down his spine to come to rest as an uneasy churning storm low in his gut. He had come to Thor’s side to break that bond, only to find there were other ways in which their flesh could be joined.
Other ways, too, in which their blood could be mingled after all.
The two lie side by side, their pleasure spent though their contentment grows as time passes lazily between their satiated bodies. Each movement now is languid promise: the curve of a hand over hip, trailing fingers leaving rune-patterns across shoulder and waist and the low dip of back. Legs move, seeking anchor about those of the other, winding like threads. Their eyes never break faith, looking only to one another. The true Loki is still as the dreamers are ever-constant motion, seeking and finding one another over and over.
A hand rises further yet, pressing sweat-laden hair back from a pale face before tangling low at the nape of long half-arched neck. And Loki’s abdomen is a hollowed-out cave, flooded with shock even as bile rises in his throat – for the one who lies in the bed, in Thor’s bed, bears its polar opposite. Thor has just fucked a simulacrum of his own self, and now Loki realises it has not been for the first time. The dream-creature’s belly is rounded and high, though not overly swollen. …not yet, at least. He does not need to move any closer to know that a child slumbers within that stretched curve.
Thor’s other hand moves up in easy warmth, and Loki knows too there can be no mistaking whose child it is.
“We have not disturbed her,” he says, lips pressed to the glistening skin of one cheek; the dream-companion in his bed and in his arms huffs out a low chuckle, cants his hip into the hollow of his brother’s pelvis.
“Perhaps it is best she should learn to sleep through your tantrums now.”
Affronted, Thor leans back; laughter sparkles like birthing stars in his bright eyes. “You would call that a tantrum?”
“You dragged me from the banquet hall with the sole purpose of ravaging me.” He almost purrs the words as Thor’s fingers work the base of his scalp, the toes of one foot tracing a sinuous curve up the back of one calf. “Had it not run the risk of Mother’s certain displeasure for the next turn of the moons, I rather believe you might have taken me upon the table to prove your point to the Vanir ambassador.”
Thor appears to consider this. “Well, it would be less mess than overturning it, yes?”
And the dream-induced illusion looks down at the muddle of sheets before casting dubious eyes upon the tangle of clothes and armour scattered about the room like an asteroid cluster falling all to pieces. “Well…perhaps.”
“Then what, pray tell, is your issue with my solution?”
The dream-creature looks to protest this, but then Thor’s lips press to his as he is himself upon him: gentle, careful of the gift he carries, but his words are the low growl of possession and passion.
“You are mine.”
Loki tilts his chin upward, eyes defiant even as his lips curve into a clear challenge. “So you enjoy telling me.”
And Thor will never back down from such. “As I am yours,” he returns, and then he trails his lips downward, over jaw and throat and heart until he whispers the last against the greatest curve of his swelling belly: “As we are both hers.”
For a moment there is silence, as Thor lays his golden head upon the dream-creature’s abdomen and says nothing more. A hand moves, strokes lightly. “Thor.” It is almost uncertain in this strange sudden silence. “Brother…what are you afraid of?”
He looks up, and the blazing happiness of his eyes spurs the dream-thing to sudden laughter. At the end of the bed, between them, Loki can only watch, can only listen as they meet again in a crush of lips and limbs and rising lust. He wishes to turn away, to leave this travesty of a dream and his idiot brother’s impossible fantasy of faith and fondness.
And yet, he stays.
Loki stood abruptly, presenting his back to both mortal and Aesir. The man stirs, his surprise writ clear upon the air between them even though Loki could no longer see his face.
“You’re just going to leave?”
The answer was given to the waiting door, closed though it yet was. “Yes.”
“So you’re not going to hurt or help him?”
At that Loki permitted himself to incline backward, a fine line between coming and going. “The Allfather will tend to his favoured son.” The bitterness of correction tasted of scorn and smoke upon his tongue. “His only son.”
From the expression upon the mortal’s face, Loki could not before sure he understood that Odin would not come himself. More likely would it be Sif and the Warriors Three, Thor’s cherished companions coming to fetch their master like the loyal dogs they were: then they would bear him home aloft their armoured shoulders like Valkyries claiming their prize. In that those creatures who hovered between life and death would not have such a prize this day. It would never be allowed, not while the Allfather sought to remake all the realms to suit his narrowed vision as he wished it to be.
“And you aren’t going to take advantage of his helplessness. You’re just going to let golden opportunity slip between your fingers.”
The mortal’s sudden words hung flat between them. Loki’s answering smile moved like a tide, drawing out across his face before retreating once more. He had not shown his blade, not to Thor or to the mortal. Still it did not surprise him, that the beast beneath the manskin had sensed the taste of its metal tongue beneath his vambrace.
Yet the only blade Loki wielded now was that of his sharpened quicksilver tongue. “I cannot allow him to die happy.” Though scarcely more than a murmur, faint as the whisper of the seas of Asgard in high summer, the mortal jerked as if slapped. “He will die miserable and alone, or not at all.”
The eyes skipped sideways, fingers twitching in impotent spasm at his side. “He is not…alone?”
“He is happy.” The words hissed out from between clenched teeth, sharp with whistle and scorn. “And all is perfect. Because it’s just the way he wants it to be. It’s always been that way. It’s always been what he wanted, and never mind what anyone else might desire!”
His fury was unexpected, like magma unleashed and coursing in boiling burning lahar through his veins. The mortal stared, but Loki turned from him. A slight movement had caught his eye, had drawn it back. But it was not his once-brother, but rather the living creature bringing death to the Odinson even as he smiled through his dreams. As the shadow of his own words hung like a weighted mantle upon his shoulders Loki knew it would be only natural to let his own mind wander, to wonder what illusions he would give himself in such a state.
He did not want to know. But it did not matter. His mind sought answers even when Loki would not ask the question, ever-moving, ever-chaos. And yet, and yet…
…there is nothing to be found.
“Can you heal this?”
His laughter climbed high in his throat, half-broken and cracked like spring ice when he at last let it loose. “No.” He held it back, and his body trembled with the effort even as he bared his teeth in false grin at the mortal seated at his brother’s side. “No, leave that to the Allfather. I no longer care.”
And Loki turned again to leave, to move through the door and abandon the one who had so long ago left him to his shadows and his fears. But it was so easy to slip to invisibility, to let another simulacrum of his own devising move forward while he lingered still, just colourless soundless motionless shadow as his other self strode away into the world that was not his. But then no world was his, not any longer. Perhaps no world would ever be named home again.
His hands tightened, and he set himself to wait. He had no idea what dream such a parasite would give him, perhaps. …but how like his brother it was, to find true happiness in the greatest of lies.
After the second time they lie closer still as Thor cradles the dream-creature against his chest, a spira mirabilis wrapped true about its holding centre. In the drowsing place between sleep and sex he mumbles nonsense, low brontide against his brother’s cooling skin. “I thought you were gone. I thought I had lost you for all time.” Fingers reach forward, tangle about those of the other; one hand presses over the lazy beat of a heart, the second over the low hum of awakening life. “We will live near forever…but it would be no life worth living without you at my side.”
Loki remembers the banners now, those that flutter along the corridors of this wing of the great golden palace of Asgard and her royal blood. It was not simply that of a crowned king, that twining twinned standard. It spoke of king and consort, of two joined as one – but he knows now why his eye had slipped over it, unwilling to see. It is not king and queen, but rather: two kings, held fast by honour and by will.
The dream-creature undulates in his arms, turning his head to accept the easy press of tongue, of lips. “You have so little skill with oratory, Thor,” he murmurs. “I would rather you didn’t bother.” Hips roll back, and a low rumble moves through Thor’s chest like brewing storm even as the other chuckles. “You speak eloquently enough with your actions.”
The arms tighten, muscles almost straining as if Thor expects the being in his arms to vanish like so much smoke and floating ash. “But I want you to know,” he insists, and Loki shudders to see the kiss pressed to the pulse of the dream-creature’s neck is shadowed by the lightest, surest press of teeth. “I need you to know.”
A moment later, in the uncertain silence, the dream-creature turns fully, hands tangling behind Thor’s neck. Forehead presses to forehead as he meets those widened eyes with narrowed true green and stares him ever deeper into silence and submission.
“I always knew,” he says with deep conviction, and Thor’s answer is a scarce whisper.
“But do you believe?”
Again, that question rolls from his silvered tongue with the ease of long association – the ease of knowing the answer. “Tell me, then: what are you afraid of, brother?”
Loki thinks that he should hate to be this way – this, the sticky sweaty sex-stained aftermath of their copulation. But his shadowself – his brightself – seems content in his brother’s arms, staring into his soul even as Thor stares back into his. Then his hands move, down and about, gathering up but one of Thor’s. They wrap close, fingers tangled, and there is nowhere to fall because he is already home.
“I will not leave you,” the brightself murmurs, and his kiss is like starlight and sun as he whispers too: “and I will never let you go.”
For all the blade remained sheathed, Loki knew he should have taken his victory in abandoning Thor to his own miseries of awakening. What delight it will bring the Allfather, he thought with vicious glee, to look into his golden son’s mind and find him in a base fantasy built upon unholy lust focused upon his sly quicksilver shadow!
And yet, after the mortals had left his brother to the tender mercies of their mechanical thralls, Loki returned to his side like iron drawn to a lodestone. False eyes watched all, but it was but a flick of the hand to blind such lenses, to replace one captured illusion with another. When he took his place at Thor’s side, he knew them to be alone. And Thor himself knew nothing: with eyes closed he revelled in his own oncoming demise. Loki thought to do the same, and yet the more he stared at those closed lids the more he recalled their contented gleam when the brightself had whispered: be not afraid, brother mine; I will stay with you forever.
The work of his seiðr would bring an end to this, though the moment he laid hands upon his brother’s skin he knew that it had only become ever worse. Beneath greying, drying skin the parasitic filaments reached long tendrils to mimic the path of the body’s natural conduits, a network running through not just the nerve endings they stimulated to fantasy, but into every organ they drained of life. The infiltration had worked deep into every inch of his brother’s body, a web of tiny fibres like a spider’s trap that would hold him until he perished of it. To undo such damage, Loki knew he must both kill and heal: he would be required to first dissolve the bonds, and then to prevent blood loss and shock he would need to fill the thousands of tiny holes left behind.
At first it felt simple. The skill of his seiðr was both innate and learned, involuntary and controlled; the mere act of breathing was the closest analogy Thor had ever been able to grasp the concept of. From the tips of that great fool’s fingers and toes Loki worked backward, searing the deepset fibres before sealing the punctures and fissures left in their wake.
Thor’s body jerked, but it did little more to react as the tendrils curled about leg and arm began to shift uneasily, withdrawing to the comparative safety of the central hub of the alien creature. But it was not the true battle, and Loki felt the difficultly of it only grow with each passing second – for he was twinning, consciousness splitting as the damned creature began its own defence. While he could work on through such division of attention, he could do so only by dint of long experience with his doubles and illusions; in that, he had become to seeing situations from all angles while his truest self kept to task.
But this was different. He should not have been able to see as much, should not have been so deep into his brother’s wandering fantasies. It could not be called true mind-walking; he did not slink again in the shadows of the corridors deep in his brother’s mind, trapped in the shadows of golden halls of both fantasy and memory.
But he caught images, all the same. Thor, turning from his contented stroll through the gardens while his beloved slept curled about the warmth of their growing child. Thor, eyes wild and voice raised to a shout, running like the Valkyries sought his soul. Thor, slamming back into the sun-dappled chamber where the dream-shadow brightself sat upright, eyes wide at his brother’s ferocity. Thor, arms wrapped about him and whispering over and over do not leave me do not let me go stay with me brother beloved brother Loki Loki Lokilokilokiloki—
The agony of it hit him like the impact of a great fall: rejection, driven hard and harsh from two sides. The symbiotic, parasitic creature fought him and this he had expected, this he had planned for – but so too did his brother. And for all he had induced such from Thor many a time before both purposely and purposefully, part of him did not want it. Part of him had never wanted it. And that part remembered the protection, the safety of an elder brother and a blood sibling, a bond which could never be broken. And in Thor’s mind those strong arms wrapped about him, with words of longing and love whispered into his hair.
Help me, brother. It echoed through Loki’s mind like the croon of a siren call. Do not let me go.
But he bowed his head and his will to his work, to the inevitable death of the creature that held the golden only Odinson in its lustful thrall. In that respect the task was easy enough, for all it resisted its death with all the natural instinct of any creature bent on life. But healing had never been Loki’s particular skill; he had never mastered it in the way he had easy disorder and destruction. Such arts were too ordered, too precise for the natural chaos of his own inherent magics. Sweat poured from him, stinging eyes and dripping from forehead, cramped fingers ablaze with seiðr and damp with exertion. He had gone too far in, and yet knew he could not turn back.
You’re a fool, he thought, sudden and brutal. You came here to end this, and even before this you both knew it would be but another damned beginning between you!
In the shifting, heaving disturbance of his dreamscape Thor held the brightself still. His eyes were closed, as if his determination alone could hold it true and eternal. Perhaps it could, Loki thought with now bleak amusement, perhaps for the first time you have learned how the mind can move reality, dearest warrior-brother mine. But the thought held fear as much as amusement: Thor was stronger than he could ever had imagined.
Novice though he was, the great will of the God of Thunder could only be enhanced by the desperation of the creature wound about his mind and heart and soul; the more Loki sought to strip it from his flesh, the more Thor drew him closer. And he shuddered – because Loki could feel it: the ghost of Thor’s fingers, pressed deep into hip and shoulder. Loki should not have been able to feel those phantom bruises blossoming beneath his skin. And yet he did, as if Thor truly did draw him down into the damned dream that would only kill them both if Loki let it.
He breathed hard, gasped in fresh air, and kept to his word, doubled vision be damned. But he could feel it still: the damned thing reaching to him with the promise of what Loki knew had been long since lost to them both. A fine vibrissae of faint white hairs rose from his brother’s skin, seeking a fresh host, waving like coral-anchored creatures in the warm currents of the sea. The sigh of the centre shuddered across his skin, a quiet fragrance wrapping about his trembling body: like roses, like death. The air was scented with memory of death and rebirth, funeral wreaths laid upon a longboat about to be set aflame.
I can make you happy, it whispered. Just…let me in. Let me show you. Let yourself be happy, and I will let you be free.
But it was his brother’s voice that cut cleanest, went deepest. Stay with me. Never let go. I cannot be without you, not again. Stay with me, brother. Stay with me, Loki. Stay with me and never ever go away.
And he is stripping his clothes, strong hands, a curve over a swollen belly, steadying hand: and then he is pressing in, his cock hard and his breathing laboured and his fingers tight about his as Loki arches his back and pulls him in. Then they are still. They do not move. He does not know which of them speaks, but he does know it does not matter.
“We will not be parted.”
The shrieked separation, the tear of fibre from flesh, beat harsh against the air as Loki yanked hard at the central hub, fingers torn and bleeding. “Let go,” he gritted out through clenched teeth. “Thor, let. Go. Of. ME.” Each word was bitten off, punctuated with fury that did not quite match the sting of salt in his eyes.
In the bed, bodies bare in the streaming sunlight of a long summer, Thor jerks again. Hips thrust forward, anchoring him ever deeper still. A shudder moves that great body, then: stillness. “Loki,” he whispers, lips in his hair and salt upon his cheeks, “Loki, this is all I ever wanted. To have you as my equal. To have you by my side. To have you, always. Just…you.”
“You idiot.” Loki choked on his frustration, tasted blood from a split lip as he yanked harder, felt his seiðr shudder. It could not be ended, it was as much a part of him as he was of it, but his reserves could be exhausted to collapse and utter vulnerability – and the longer he worked, the harder Thor resisted, the closer he skirted that ending.
“You great, naïve, blustering idiot.” The mass lay between his pressed hands, pulsating and feral; it bore neither teeth nor claw, but Loki felt the prick of the deeper fibres: seeking fresh meat, fresh game, fresh prey. “Do not fight me.” And he shouted now, arrowing his power deep into the creature, deep into the mind it held prisoner. “Let me go!”
Thor holds him tighter. With the shift of his body against him his cock moves deeper; there comes the striking of pleasure, and the low lazy turn of their daughter in his trembling brightself’s body. “Never,” his brother whispers. “I will never let you go.”
A deep breath, and Loki’s throat burned raw and bleeding. “Brother,” he whispered, the word both cherished memory and fresh curse upon his dry, cracking lips, “brother, please.”
The fingers loosened, though the impossible bruises ached deeper as though another pressed hard against them to remind him of everything he was about to lose. Loki groaned, twisted; the creature remained anchored still, tendrils wrapped about his own wrist and arm, but the sensation of weakening gave him fierce pleasure, deep satisfaction. All teetered on the verge of ending, though its greatest connection remained open yet.
“Stay with me,” Thor whispers, and the brightself sighs, holds him tight. “Just…stay with me, Loki, love me, never let me go – and I will be your slave.”
And he sighed, too. “I will stay,” he murmured, in mind and in voice, “I will stay, if you just let me go.”
Then, finally, it came: a great heave, as mental as it was physical. It was as a snap, the thread of life cut clean. A moment later his mind blazed with sudden striking fear: it had been too much. For all the mental power of the cursed thing, the strongest root had been in Thor’s heart. Yanked free now, it brought forth a great seizure, both of body and mind. Upon his brother’s hips, knees bracketing rib and waist, Loki held Thor down, teeth clenched hard as he rode him through the thrashing terror.
Then, it became too much: his back arched in tetanic spasm, curved upward in silent scream. Even as Loki fought to push him down, hold him back, seiðr pouring from his hands and wrapping around the stuttering suffering broken heart, a great gout of blood expelled itself from a throat already tightened by keening groaning agony.
Loki spilled from his hips, falling to the floor in a tangle of agony and sudden fury. Scrambling upward, he spared only a glance to ensure his brother heaved breath, seiðr working ever still to repair shattered muscle and torn vasculature. Then he looked to the writhing thing in his hands, bloodied and ravenous and furious, emanating stolen emotion like poisoned brilliant radiation.
Stay with me, it whispered like song, and I will never let you go.
Though he had a blade to hand, wrenched forth from the sheath bound to wrist beneath the leather and metal of his armoured forearm, Loki chose not to bring death in so crude and imperfect a manner. Instead, with a murmur more thought than sound, he summoned the flare of coldfire. A moment later the damned thing existed as little more than greasy ash, crumbling to dust between his fingers like the fine sands of a shattered hourglass at last running dry, never to begin the count of ages ever again.
His knees gave way but a moment later. Exhausted, trembling upon the floor, Loki surrendered for that moment to the inevitability of what he had expended. His forehead leaned hard against the cool metal of the Midgardian gurney. He did not need to look up to know his brother lived. And yet he felt still that something had died, and that more than just a mere illusion.
It might have been moments, might have been a perceived millennium before he felt the pressure upon his head, the fingers working over scalp, nails catching on strands of hair. “…Loki?”
His throat rasped over the word, perfect reluctance, utter agony. “Thor.”
“I want to look at you.”
The laughter knifed through him. “It was a dream, you fool,” he whispered. “I will not do it.”
Thor remained silent, but his hand did not move. With a deep breath that burned in his lungs Loki looked down, the blade pressed light against the fingers of the gloves he had called to cover his hands now the working of his seiðr had passed. It rested uneasy in his hand, as if it had mind enough of its own to remember its rhyme and reason. Loki had brought it for one purpose: to drive it into his brother’s heart, to end all of it while his brother laid so low. Loki’s abdomen twisted at the weight of it, the promise of the death of years and decades and centuries, a millennium entire of love and hate and desperate longing. And it coiled low in his gut in a twisting kaleidoscope of a thousand colours he had never known existed before he had stumbled through his damned brother’s deepest desire.
How dare you, his mind taunted, cool condemnation even as every thought burned. How dare you conceive of a world more impossible than even improbable.
“Loki.” The voice tripped over itself, and the bed shuddered as he tried to rise, found even his great body could fail him at the most crucial of moments. “Loki, that…the dream. You saw…it was only a dream?”
The agony of his question and plea beat against his mind and still Loki did not answer, cleaving all thought instead to the warmth of the blade in his hand. When Thor spoke again, his voice cracked, bled the way his heart had only but moments ago.
“Stay.” He swallowed, and Loki thought there must be blood still upon his lips as he fought with word instead of motion. “Please.”
“No.” Climbing to his feet, swaying with exhaustion, Loki felt as distant as the realms he had known when he had fallen from the Bifröst. There came too the sensation of ever-increasing space, of his once-brother and the life they had known together moving ever further away, out of his reach. “No, I think I shall go.”
His laughter burned like acid, leaving him hollow and filled with holes. “I am not your brother,” he said, and smiled like the universe tearing apart at its darkest seams. “It is not even what you truly want of me. And so: there is no reason for me to stay.”
When he walked away, he did not look back. The blade felt cold in his hand now. But in the other, the thing he had cut free grew warmer. With each step, it squirmed to greater awareness: the cutting he had spared at the last moment before the burning, the meristematic fragment somewhere between living and dying, seeking its salvation in a now-gloved hand.
Stay with me, it whispered, but with another’s voice. Please, brother. Stay.
Loki did not slow his pace, but he let his eyes fall closed like the sleeping one invited to dream. The root gave a spasm, joyful and strong. With it came the scent of fresh rain, the taste of tart apple, the sensation of warm skin, and the sound of distant thunder like the laughter of children: both those who had once run such golden halls, and those still yet to be born to such wonder.
When he opened his eyes, Loki kept walking. His hand crushed tight, and the root lay still.
But he did not let it go.