The knife was black and carved with runes that were invisible to naked air, but the markings flared up when Loki stuck the blade into a brazier.
“It’s not some insipid doggerel, is it? Did you compose it yourself? Roses are red, jotunns are blue, this blade is pretty, and so are you?”
Thor laughed, too loudly for Loki’s liking. “Pretty are you? I had not noticed. Show me your jotunn face, then,” Thor drew him close and breathed into his neck. “I wish to see your true form.” His fingers fumbled with the layers of intricate jotunn court robes.
The strong smell of burning incense or some other potent herb was making his head spin, and Loki slipped out of his embrace and strolled down a long open hallway, illuminated by the light of Jotunheim’s three moons.
“This face is displeasing to you?” He was turning the knife over in his hands. “How fortunate, then, that you are paying court to my royal brother.”
Thor rushed after him and backed him into an alcove. “That is not what I meant, and you know it.”
“Do I now? Did you bring him a present, too?” Loki smiled sweetly, sliding an expert hand into Thor’s breeches. “Was it costlier than mine?
Thor’s knees buckled and hit stone, and the pain and pleasure made him go cross-eyed. Quickly changing places, he pulled Loki onto his lap, their tryst half-hidden by the shadows, and Loki didn’t falter once.
His eyes were wide and so green, his fingers stroking Thor into hardness so cool and slim, and that knife thin smile grew even wider as Thor rutted desperately into his hand.
“Ah… yes, like that, yes.”
He pulled Loki close to rub against - what was hidden under those layers, Thor had not yet seen. Was there a quivering cock and the warm folds of a plump cunt too? Would Loki be hard and wet at once when Thor lay him on his back and parted his thighs? The thought of that almost pushed him over the edge, so very close.
“Well, did you?” Loki’s hand stilled, and Thor’s hips jerked up.
“Don’t, don’t stop. Did I, ah, what?” he mouthed hotly into Loki’s neck, and he bit and suckled at it to urge him on.
The strokes were teasing, fingering a wet trail around the head, and resumed with firm emphasis. “Did you. Bring my brother. A present?”
“Hah - had to. Courting gift, by the blind Norns, yes, a knife, with rubies on the hilt, like that, yes –” He tensed and released with a shout, and there was Loki, covering Thor’s mouth with his, his likely forked tongue sliding, sucking, hissing against Thor’s, as if to pull the very breath from his heart.
Thor sank back into the alcove, limp and breathing heavily, and gazed light-headed at Loki, who brought his hand up to his swollen lips and slowly licked the sticky white from each finger, and by Ymir’s icy tits, Thor was not getting hard again.
But when he reached for Loki, Loki jumped off his knees, and quick as a snake, flicked the blade across Thor’s cheek. A drop of blood trickled down before Thor could feel the sting.
“Be sure to do that for my brother,” said an amused Loki, fastidiously smoothing his robes as he walked away. “Lest the gift of a knife cut deep into your love for each other.”
It was a formal courtship in all but name, and the jotunn court had worn Aesir glamour in honor of his arrival. All except one.
Black markings of doubtless powerful magic scrolled up his arms, entwined with deliberate patterns of cuts healed so they would stand up in cruel ridges. The first prince of Jotunheim Helblindi stood shoulders above Thor, and dressed for fighting in little more than a ceremonial loincloth, it was very clear that his skin was a cold, icy blue.
In a graceful arc, he backhanded the third Aesir warrior, who landed on his back. The fourth barely had time to swing his staff before he too hit the hard ice of the ring, and the prince threw his head back and roared in challenge.
“Magnificent brute, isn’t he?”
Thor hadn’t heard this one approach, so quietly did he sidle next him on the bench where Thor had been watching so-called friendly sparring. He slipped an arm through Thor’s, and leaned close. It was that slip of a jotunn magr. For such a mannered court, they were an overly demonstrative people.
“Smitten with your future bride?” His smile was crooked and his breath tickled Thor’s cheek. “That is the correct Aesir term, is it not? Bride?”
Thor looked sideways at this one, inky black hair, twisted with stones and feathers, falling over the pale skin of his glamour, and without thinking, Thor brushed a stray lock from his face.
“My eyes are full of love for the first son of Jotunheim.” Thor repeated the traditional words he had been taught as he followed the tilt of that mocking smile. “Though, I am not sure which of us will play the bride,” he confessed, “Your prince might take me for one.”
The magr’s eyes lit up in wicked delight.
“Is that why you sit here and watch with your mouth open as the warriors fight? To undress them with your eyes and imagine how they will please you in bed?”
Thor sputtered, caught between shock and laughter, and he grabbed the magr by the arm. Then, seeing the thin smile fluttering warily on that face, Thor broke into a leering grin of his own. “Is that what you do, little mage?”
The magr scoffed. “I need not imagine any such thing.”
His eyes were green, green as snakes hidden in the grass, like unripe apples of Idunn’s orchard in the spring, and Thor could feel the pale jotunn’s breath hitch as he held still like a trapped animal, feel the shiver that ran through him, and Thor was suddenly and quite undeniably aware that they were pressed up against each other, which only made Thor tighten his grip.
“But they are so much larger than you are,” Thor whispered, and the magr looked away.
“You learn to like it, after a fashion.” His gaze dropped to Thor’s hand. “You’re hurting me.”
Thor traced the line of his pale throat and watched him swallow. “I’m sorry.” But Thor didn’t let go. He wanted the jotunn to look at him again, but when he did, his eyes were blazing with the burn of poison.
“No, you’re not,” said the magr with a laugh. “But I could like this, too.” And he wriggled out of Thor’s grip as heavy footsteps approached, and a shadow fell upon them.
Thor paid no heed.
“Who are you?” he demanded. “I’ve seen you before, last night, at the banquet. You are the king’s son, Laufey’s son.”
The implications of this made his head spin. Adjustments could be made. One jotunn son was as good as another, though the droning white-beards would scold and sigh before they drew up their long-winded legal terms again. But this much was within the bounds of choice, and Thor would choose and gladly so. He could learn to like this, far better than he had ever hoped.
But the magr shook his head and rose, holding out his hands palms down in formal greeting to meet the warriors.
They were loud and cheerful after their fighting, and some of their glamour had slipped, leaving one halfway blue up to the elbow, and another blue down the length of his leg. The tallest of them had no glamour to shed, and with a lusty laugh, he caught the magr up in a sweaty embrace.
Drawing himself up to his full height, Helblindi, first son of Jotunheim, held his half-brother to his flank and grinned widely at his intended.
“I see you’ve met our Loki. Do not listen to his preposterous lies, prince of the Aesir.” He flapped his loincloth at Thor lewdly. “I am certainly not deformed in any way, nor am I unable to perform my conjugal duties, am I, you little wretch?”
And he leaned down to claim Loki, who, with a brief sidelong glance, and to the ribald cheers of the jotunn warriors, curled his hand at the back of Helblindi’s powerful neck, and opened his lips to the plunder.
That night, Thor sat at the high table and looked for Loki. As the honored guest, Thor was placed at the Laufey-king’s left hand, and hemmed in on the other side by Helblindi, who devoured his food with gusto and did not demand much in terms of conversation. He stopped once in a while to give Thor a good-natured slap on the back, or to recommend one dish over another, and Thor nodded and grinned until his face hurt.
Finally, Thor ventured to ask. “Is your… is your brother Loki not here?”
Helblindi gave a careless shrug. “Is he not? He should be somewhere about.”
But Thor’s question had caught the ear of the Laufey-king, who had been, up till now, somber and deep in his cups.
“Loki?” Laufey sat up with a jolt, and peered around the hall, searching. “Where is Loki? What are you doing slinking about in that dark corner, Loki-child? You’ll catch a draft. Come here, come here.”
And he gestured for a servant to fetch a stool. With a strained look on his pointed face, Farbauti-king inched his chair aside to make space between them. The jotunns perked up to watch the drama, as Loki, eyes downcast and his lips pursed, made his way up to the high table and perched at the edge of his seat next to the Laufey-king.
A low hiss of disapproval rose from scattered tables from the high lords of Jotunheim. Loki still wore his pale Aesir skin, while the glamour on the rest of the younger members of the court had faded sometime before supper.
Ignoring them, Laufey-king reached for the bowl of crystallized fruit and filled Loki’s plate with sweetmeats preserved perfect in their form and glittering in sugar as if they had been left out in an ice storm.
“Brought here all the way from Vanaheimr. I know how much you like sweet things.” said Laufey-king, looking fondly at Loki who had cast off his bout of primness and was licking the sugar off his fingers.
A heavy sceptr thudded on the table between Loki and the plate. “And what do you say to the king, Loki?”
Loki, his mouth full and sticky, gazed blandly back at Farbauti’s narrow-eyed glare, chewing deliberately slowly and said nothing.
Farbauti clucked his tongue, but averted his eyes in disgust. “Your manners are atrocious, half-breed get,” he spat.
The Laufey-king only laughed and put a doting hand on his son’s head.
Feeling the reproving glare of Ullr, his father’s emissary, Thor managed to tear his gaze away and back to Helblindi.
“So, he is your brother,” said Thor, feeling rather stupid. Helblindi, startled out of tearing his meat, certainly looked at Thor as if he were lacking in wits. Then he shrugged again, as if that did not matter, much.
“Loki and I share a dam, the Laufey-king,” explained Helblindi, and added more slowly. “Our dam. He who gave birth to us?”
“I thought Laufey was your father.”
“He was sire to my brother Bỳleistr. Farbauti-king is my sire, he who gave birth to Bỳleistr.”
“And Loki?” persisted Thor.
At that, Farbauti spoke up for all the hall to hear. “Yes, who is your sire, Loki? Pray tell us.”
Loki, his lips stained red from the candied fruit, tossed an insolent grimace over his shoulder at Farbauti.
“My sire is the whistle in the wind, the light of stars, the clash of waves from the stormy sea in deepest winter.” He resolutely did not meet the gaze of Laufey. “But there are those who say he is the delicate blade of grass, the great oak that still reaches for the sun in softer climes.”
“He is no one then,” mocked Farbauti. “You are Loki half-thing.”
“I am Loki, and I belong to no one.”
A pained sigh came from Laufey. “Loki-child, you are my son. Is that not enough?”
And Loki drew a sharp breath, but the cut was drawn.
“I belong to no one, I am free, and no mere name will hold claim to me,” he spat, and he stepped back and vanished into the shadows. A sudden gust of wind swept in and blew all the shutters open, and the heavy doors at the end of the great hall thudded to a close.
After a while, the jotunns went back to their feasting, unperturbed by the snow blowing in from the windows.
Thor was abashed, not knowing where to look. “I am sorry to be the cause. I did not wish to bring strife –”
“You get used to it. A pinch of drama helps with the digestion, I say." Helbindi waved him off. "Well, go on then. Drag the rascal back by his heels.”
Confused, Thor stared at the jotunn prince, just as a splendid haunch of snow piglet was set upon the table before them.
“Someone should go after him,” said Helblindi, taking up the carving knife. “And this being by far the best course of the day, that someone shall not be me. Besides,” he added, “You started it.”
Thor didn’t need telling twice – actually he did, but it had been a long and bewildering day, and this was a foreign land. Ignoring the indignant Ullr, and his pointed message to sit right down, boy, or prince or no prince, I’ll --, Thor mumbled his excuses and ran out of the feasting hall.
He found Loki at the end of an out-of-the-way corridor leading to a small walled courtyard. Even at the sound of Thor’s tread, he refused to turn, staring bleakly out at the soft feathers of snow falling on the carved ice.
“Did you enjoy the show?”
As Thor drew close, he thought he saw a track of dried tears on Loki’s cheek. “Mmm, the what?”
“The Farbauti and Loki show,” said Loki in a dead voice. “Assured to end with one or the other in tears, if not sharp stabby things. Tell me, did he cry?”
“I wasn’t looking at him.”
“Oh?” And Thor stepped closer into his space, and his eyes went wide. “Oh.”
His lips stayed that startled shape, stained red and open, and Thor swallowed hard, remembering this morning and the twist in his gut that had been roiling inside him all day.
“I heard you like sweets,” said Thor, and pulled out the candied plum he’d palmed from the table. Loki moved to take the sweetmeat and stopped himself.
“Your grace is too kind,” said Loki, veiled in the politeness he would not give Farbauti. “Sweetness is rare in these harsh climes.”
Dismayed, Thor held out the plum. He had reckoned on a brush of fingers, a calming hand, perhaps even to comfort the strange creature and stroke his hair as the Laufey-king had done. After clinging to Thor all morning, this sudden aloofness was maddening.
Then, dipping his head, Loki took a delicate bite out of the plum, straight out of Thor’s fingers, and Thor’s breath stuttered.
Loki paused, wary and poised to flee again.
Thor forced himself to get a grip – the sly hints at the sparring ring, the kiss, this snake of a magr gone limp and pliant in the arms of his brutish brother – and he raised the candied fruit to the level of his face.
Loki took another bite and another, his eyes not leaving Thor’s the whole time, not when he licked the sugar from Thor’s fingers, and took them in his warm wet mouth to suckle.
There was a pang of loss when his fingers met cold air, and Loki pulled back as if to gauge his reaction.
Quickly, Thor pulled another crystallized fruit, a cherry this time, from his pockets. Always have a backup, Tyr had taught him, but Thor wasn’t going to think about brawny, black-bearded Tyr now.
He put the jewel-like fruit between his teeth and grinned, Come hither.
With a stunned laugh, Loki’s arms were wrapped around his neck, his lips upon his, and his tongue, so stained with sugared fruit it was probably black, twining with Thor’s, sucking its very juices dry and hungering for more, and his body, oh, Thor had that too, pressed hard against his, rubbing against him with a hollow desperation, and Thor’s hands greedy for bare skin, bunched up layer after sodding layer until he finally found smooth thighs and the swell of –
A clearing of a gruff throat interrupted them, and with a sharp gasp Loki vanished, and Thor found himself grasping fading wisps of smoke, and looking blearily at the stony face of the first prince of Jotunnheim.
“So, prince of the Aesir,” asked Helblindi dryly, “Was my brother greatly cheered by your comfort?”