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the only thing

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The royal library has been Loki’s sanctuary ever since he first learned to read. It’s quiet and there are barely any people in here. He can spend hours sitting between the shelves, lost in fictional worlds or ancient recounts.

Thor doesn’t quite understand the appeal. He’s tried reading the books that Loki loves, but just as Loki throws down training swords and armour with distaste, Thor slides the books back into their places on the shelves, uninterested.

Still, Thor finds himself spending more and more time in the library when he has time away from the training yard and his lessons. The differences between the princes of Asgard have been stark since they were just toddlers, but in their teens, these differences are growing even more apparent.

Thor is growing tall and broad, and although Loki is matches him in height, he’s still slender. There’s an effortless grace in the way that Loki moves and it draws Thor’s eyes more often than not.

Thor is self-aware enough to know exactly why he’s taken such an interest in his brother, and why he should be doing just about anything except for what he is. He should be avoiding the library, avoiding Loki, but then again, he’s never been the clever son. He decides that this lets him get away with making a few unwise decisions.

Especially when these decisions involve sitting around the library, pretending to be immersed in a book, just so that he can watch Loki instead.

With so many shelves crammed full of books, the aisles between are narrow. Loki sits on the floor with his knees folded up to support the book he is reading, lips moving soundless as he goes through the particularly engaging parts. He’s beautiful in a way that Thor can’t quite explain. His friends’ definitions of beauty tend to centre around the long, flowing hair of the maidens they see, or the curves of their bodies. Loki has neither, but Thor thinks that he’s far more beautiful than any of the girls that Fandral speaks of.

As Loki turns the page of his book, he glances up at Thor. Too slow to look away, Thor flushes as Loki raises an eyebrow.

For a long moment, neither of them look away from each other. Then, wetting his lips, Loki says, “You know, if you’re going to pretend to read, it might help to actually turn the pages every once in a while.”

Thor drops his gaze to his book, embarrassed. “You could have said something earlier, if you knew.”

With a small smile, Loki sets his book aside and crawls closer to where Thor is sitting. “To be honest, I was enjoying the attention. You could be anywhere in Asgard, but you’re in the library, pretending to read books that you don’t even like.”

“I never said that I don’t like them—”

“But I know you, Thor. I know you better than you even realise.”

Thor frowns, both confused and pleased by the way Loki is watching him. When Loki reaches out to him, Thor holds his breath, not even sure of what he wants until he feels a cool thumb stroking across his lower lip.

“You are so afraid,” Loki whispers, holding his gaze, “but you need to remember one thing, Brother. Just because people tell you that something is wrong, it doesn’t make them right. Do what you feel is right. What makes you happy. That’s the only thing in the nine realms that truly matters.”

Thor’s heart is hammering in his chest, but he still manages a small grin. “It’s that kind of thinking that gets you in trouble so often.”

Loki’s grin matches his. “True, but at least I enjoy myself. Are you going to kiss me, Thor? Because you’d better do it before someone sees us.”

As quiet as the library is, the thought is enough to spur Thor into action. He presses a brief, clumsy kiss to Loki’s lips, bumping their mouths together more than anything else.

Loki laughs, sounding amused and delighted, and takes Thor’s face in both his hands. When Loki kisses him, he does it with just as much graces as everything else and Thor would be incredibly jealous if he wasn’t being so pleasantly distracted.

Their kiss is slow, tentative, and Thor rests his hand on Loki’s shoulder to hold him close. When they pull apart, Loki is smiling, ducking his head to avoid Thor’s eyes.

“You’ve no idea how long I’ve wanted to do that,” Thor breathes.

“I think I do,” Loki replies. “And besides, I’ve wanted to for even longer.”

“Have you?” Thor asks, pulling Loki close. He isn’t particularly surprised; Loki has always been much quicker than him. “Then I suppose that we’ll just have to make up for that.”

Judging by the pleased sound Loki makes when he’s kissed again, Thor doubts that he minds at all.