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Thor quickly choose a mount from the stables and rode off into the forests surrounding Asgard. He knew he didn't have long because he was a prince and surely his absence would be noticed soon enough, but he valued this time alone. His horse was not as fast as Odin's steed, but she managed to cover ground quickly until Thor reached the location he sought. It was a small secluded clearing, a copse of trees and a small pond. It was a place he had been visiting for the past few months in secret, and he'd like to keep it that way. People had started to notice his absences and Fandral implied that everyone suspected Thor of sneaking off to meet with some fair maiden. Would that it were as simple as that.

That would be easier for the people of Asgard to swallow than the fact that Prince Thor also practiced magic.

Contrary to popular belief, Thor did indeed have some magical talent, though it was nowhere near the natural aptitude that Loki had. It wasn't something Thor liked to discuss, and he'd largely kept it hidden since he was a child. But out in his clearing, he could use his magic safely away from judgement.

When Thor and Loki were children, they began their education as princes. Their schooling had covered a variety of areas, from basic things like reading, writing, languages and proper court manners. As they grew, they also took up combat training (which Thor took to quite naturally) and lastly magic.

Magic and the status of its practitioners in Asgard was a strange thing. Seiðr was feared and respected for its power, but it was also something seen as unmanly and not worthy of a true warrior of Asgard. Thor would never forget the moment he truly learned this lesson.

They were still quite young and he and Loki had just finished a magic lesson. Loki had known how to conjure fire for months, but it was something that still escaped Thor. That afternoon, Thor had finally conjured a flame in his hand. He still remembers the excitement of it all, the knowledge that he had created something from nothing. Loki had looked so proud as well and it made Thor smile even brighter. Thor had rushed out to play with the other children their age, excited to show them what he could do.

Thor had conjured a flame in each hand, delighting the younger children while Loki looked on with an expression of fond amusement. But before long, there was trouble on the horizon. There was an older boy, the son of one of Odin's advisors, who did not seem impressed at all.

“That's a nice little trick,” the boy said mockingly. “I suppose Thor will be using magic now like his weakling little brother.”

Several of the children had laughed then and Thor felt his face grow hot with embarrassment. Thor had – of course - punched the boy in the face then for daring to insult the House of Odin. But despite this, he never forgot that initial feeling of shame.

Afterwards, Thor had stopped paying attention to their magic tutor and then stopped going to the lessons altogether. Frigga and Odin seemed disappointed in him, but eventually accepted that Thor had no talent for it and would be better off spending more time in the training yards. Loki never said a word to Thor about his own true feelings on the matter, but Thor could tell that it hurt him. It created a distance between them that had slowly grown over the years, and though Thor hated it, sometimes he thought maybe it was for the best. As they'd gotten older, Thor had started to... notice Loki in ways that he should not. And nothing intensified his yearning like seeing Loki practicing magic. It was then that his brother was truly in his element. Loki always had such an intense look on his face then, his movements so fluid and sure that Thor could not help but admire the graceful lines of Loki's body.

But these desires were not befitting of the so-called Golden Prince of Asgard.

Thor sighed as he dismounted from the horse, and tied her to a nearby tree. He sat down by the pond, stroking the sparse beard that had begun to grow on his chin and thinking on what spells he would like to do first. He started getting excited about the possibilities and he chuckled to himself. It was funny how once he finally gave in to the urge it was like the floodgates were opened, the magic eager to burst out of him after years of restraint.

At first it started off small. As Thor had always had a talent for elemental magic in particular, he took to doing little fire spells in his room. This continued on for some time, until one day he tried a more powerful fire spell and almost burned his curtains down. Thor quickly extinguished the flames, but the smell of fire had brought a concerned Loki over from his own chambers down the hall.

“It was nothing, brother,” Thor lied when Loki asked him what happened. “I was foolish and left a candle too close to the curtains.”

Loki had glared at Thor, clearly disbelieving. “You are a terrible liar, Thor,” Loki told him, and then he'd left it at that. But from then on, Loki had kept a watchful eye on Thor. Between that and the danger of another spell getting out of control, Thor realized it wasn't safe to use magic inside the citadel anymore. He would have to find another way.

There was a particular time of day in the late afternoon that Thor discovered was the perfect time to steal away. It was not yet dinner time, but Thor's training was finished and Loki's magic lessons would continue on for a while longer. With Loki already suspicious of him, it was important that Thor's little trips remained under his brother's radar.

It was quite by accident that Thor had stumbled upon this particular clearing, but he found that it perfectly suited his needs. It was removed, but not too far away from the citadel for him to get back in time for dinner. Plus, with the pond there he had a convenient body of water to put out any potential fires.

Thor settled on the spells he wanted to try and smiled to himself. He stood up and felt his heart start to race with the thrill of it all. Because yes, he loved to call down lighting with Mjolnir in his grasp, but there was something different about this. There was something special about calling magic forth with nothing but his own two hands.

Thor took a deep breath and then began to weave his magic, manipulating each element. He made spirals of air that swept up bits of earth and leaves in their wake. He made choppy waves in the pond and laughed as they startled the fish. But while Thor loved all of the elements, he always found himself coming back to fire. Earth was strong and solid. Water was languid and peaceful, and air free and open. Lightning was a brilliant spike of energy and then it was gone, but fire was alive.

“Not bad,” a voice said, punctuated with slow clapping.

The fire Thor was conjuring went out and he turned to face the intruder.

“Loki! What- what are you doing here?”

“Finding out what you've been hiding of course. Although I must say I truly did not expect this. How long have you been practicing magic, Thor?”

Thor stared at him like a doe facing a hunter, finding himself at a loss for words.

Loki rolled his eyes. “Relax, I'm not going to tell anyone.” Loki entered the clearing further and then sat down on the grass, motioning for Thor to do the same.

Thor flopped down on the ground beside Loki until they were sitting shoulder to shoulder. Loki playfully nudged Thor's shoulder with his own, and Thor felt some of his tension start to melt away. “You asked me how long,” Thor said and Loki nodded. “Off and on since we were young. It seems that I have always had some talent for it after all.”

Loki nudged Thor again, but this time with a sharp elbow to the ribs that made Thor yelp. “Then why do you hide yourself away?”

“You know why!” Thor said, his voice raised in frustration. “There are many... expectations placed upon me. I am to be a warrior, not a sorcerer. And besides, I'll never possess your talent in this area, brother. You are a natural.”

“And you're a natural at hand-to-hand combat, yet I still spend a good amount of time in the training yards.”

Thor swallowed. “It's not the same.”

“No, Asgard would never let it be, would it?” Loki said bitterly.

“Loki...” Thor said. “I must apologize to you. I know that others have not always been kind to you about your gifts. And if ever I participated, if I made you feel-”

“Stop it.”

“No, Loki. Please, let me say this. You are brave, brother. Braver than I,” he admitted, “for you do not hide your talent away in the face of cruelty. How do you bear it?”

Loki was silent for a long moment. “Because I must.”

Thor leaned in and listened closely because he knew how rare this was for Loki to speak candidly.

“Because my magic is a part of me. Because I need it like I need air. There is nothing and no one that I would ever allow to take that from me,” Loki said, his voice quiet but fierce.

Thor nodded and wrapped an arm around Loki's shoulders while they sat in companionable silence. He had worried that Loki would push him away, but he seemed to accept Thor's touch. Perhaps there was something about being away from the citadel that made it easier for them to talk like this. Thor hadn't felt this close to Loki in a long time and was struck with just how much he had missed his brother. With them sitting so close together, Thor could not ignore the heat of his brother's body. He longed to bury his nose in the crook of Loki's neck and inhale his scent or run his fingers through Loki's silken hair. Instead he managed to restrain himself, letting his arm fall away from Loki's shoulders altogether. They had already shared enough secrets for the day and this was one Thor wasn't willing to part with now, if ever.

“Are you angry with me?”

“For hiding this from me?”

Thor nodded.

Loki swallowed hard and his body stiffened. "To hide from them," Loki said with a broad sweep of his arm, "I could understand. But from me, brother?"

Thor hung his head in shame. He'd been so concerned with protecting himself and protecting them both from the nature of his desires that he didn't realize how badly he was hurting Loki in the process. He'd driven Loki away when he should been there by his side.

"Loki, I'm sorry."

"It doesn't matter," Loki said, but his voice was flat and he was not even attempting to sell the lie.

"Yes it does," Thor said and reached out to touch Loki's cheek, forcing his brother to meet his gaze. There was anger in Loki's eyes, but most of all just an overwhelming sadness. Thor wondered what it would have been like, all that time that Loki must have spent feeling alone. All that time they could have spent exploring magic together if not for Thor's own foolishness. But he would find a way to make it up to Loki and to set things right between them if it was the last thing he did.

"I should have told you. Can you ever forgive me?"

Loki looked into Thor's eyes again, but this time there was something else in his expression. Thor was suddenly aware of just how close they were sitting together and how easy it would be to simply press his lips against Loki's.

Loki looked away and the moment was gone, his somber expression replaced with a mischievous smirk.

"If I must," he said. "But I will expect you to earn my forgiveness, brother."

"Of course, anything Loki."

"Good. I will hold you to that," Loki said with a grin.

Thor groaned internally because he knew that Loki would make good on the threat. Who knew what manner of tasks and chores he would have Thor do? But Thor couldn't be too troubled by it. It was worth it to see Loki smile at him again.

“Now, enough of being maudlin,” Loki said. “Show me what you can do, Thor.”

“Very well,” Thor said, grinning as he stood up. Loki stood too and faced Thor. Thor made a show of shaking out his arms and stretching in preparation, while Loki rolled his eyes at him. Truth be told, Thor couldn't help but feel a bit nervous. Practicing alone was one thing, but actually demonstrating his magic to someone else was another story, especially in front of someone as talented as Loki. Thor briefly wondered if this was how Loki felt every time they sparred in the training yards.

Thor decided that he may as well put his best foot forward, and start with his greatest strength. He took a deep breath and then stretched out his hands and let the flames form. The flames moved, one in each open palm, leaping and dancing. He brought his hands together with a powerful sweep of his arms, letting the two flames become one. With great concentration, the flame became a small ball of fire that rose until it levitated a few inches higher than Thor's head. Thor fought to keep it aloft, but then his concentration faltered and the flames extinguished.

Thor looked down at Loki, anxious to see his brother's response.

“Not bad,” Loki said, and Thor beamed because he knew how to read the meanings between Loki's words and this was high praise indeed. “Especially considering that you learned many of these things on your own.”

“Thank you, brother.”

“However, there are a few things you could improve.”

“Such as?”

Loki gave a long-suffering sigh. “First of all, you try too hard.”

“Why should I not try hard?” Thor asked, looking at Loki with confusion in his eyes. “How else am I to accomplish anything?”

“You do not understand, Thor. You approach magic as if it were a sword or a hammer and if you just keep hitting things harder, you will master it. But that is not what magic is like,” Loki continued as he moved forward and took Thor's left hand in his own. He gripped Thor's wrist and turned his hand until the palm was facing upright.

“Conjure the flames again, in both hands,” Loki said and Thor complied.

Loki stood behind Thor and held both of Thor's wrists in his hand. He rested his head onto Thor's shoulder so he could see and Thor took in a shuddering breath at the feel of Loki's soft hair against his cheek. When Loki spoke, Thor could feel the vibration of his voice move through him.

“When you combined the flames before your movements were much too forceful. Like I said before, magic is not a hammer.”

“Then show me what I am doing wrong.”

“The problem is simple, brother. As usual, you lack restraint,” Loki teased him, making Thor scowl even though he knew there was truth in Loki's words.

“Magic is subtle,” Loki said and he gripped Thor's wrists slightly tighter. Loki guided the movement of Thor's hands and instead of the wide, sweeping arc Thor had used before, the movement was much tighter and smoother. When the flames combined into one, Thor did find that it did not take as much energy as before and the flame itself seemed to burn even brighter this time.

“Ah, I see,” Thor said, and Loki laughed, his warm breath ghosting across Thor's neck.

“Magic tends to mirror its practitioner and so yours will always be wild,” Loki said, and Thor could feel his smirk, “but you can find ways to make it take less energy and concentration from you.”

“Will you show me again?”

“Of course,” Loki said, and Thor he could hear the smile in his voice. He sounded pleased, to be able to teach Thor something and for Thor to actually listen.

Loki showed him the movement several more times, his strong grip never wavering on Thor's wrists. It was probably not necessary for Loki to physically guide him through each movement, but his body felt so good pressed up against Thor's that he didn't want it to end. He longed to turn around, pull Loki close, and kiss him the way that he wanted, but no. This would have to be enough.

Loki guided Thor through a few more movements and then finally pulled away. Though Thor felt bereft at the loss of Loki's body heat, he tried not to show it. He turned around to face Loki, who was looking quite pleased with himself.

“You are a good teacher,” Thor said.

“And you are not a completely terrible student.”

Thor laughed and Loki shook his head and then smiled at Thor fondly. Whatever anger he harbored toward Thor for keeping his magic a secret seemed to have faded for now, though Thor had no doubt that it was far from gone completely.

“Will you show me more?” Thor asked. “It has been a long time since I've truly seen you use your magic.”

"I... very well, Thor," Loki said. He seemed lost in thought for a moment but then a slow smile spread over his features. "Yes. I will show you how a true master wields fire."

"Then show me, oh great one," Thor teased.

Loki snorted. "Sarcasm? I did not know you were capable of such a feat."

"There are many things you do not know about me."

"Really?" Loki said, fixing Thor with a heavy gaze. Thor felt himself grow nervous and he immediately regretted saying the words. Loki was so perceptive. What if he discovered the final secret Thor was hiding from him?

But if he had, he did not say anything about it now.

"Now shut up and watch, brother," Loki said. Loki took a deep breath and then lifted up his hands. Beautiful green fire shot forth and into the sky. As he kept moving, the fire swirled and shapes began to form as if Loki were telling a story. The flames coalesced into a giant ball of fire and then scattered outward, becoming a flock of green, fiery birds. Thor laughed and looked on, his eyes wide with delight.

Loki was still growing into himself and in their daily life his movements sometimes appeared coltish. But when he worked his magic, any residual awkwardness was gone and Thor could see clearly the stunning man his brother would become.

As Thor watched, he felt like his hands were itching with the desire to move. He had always been a man of action and it was almost as if his magic was calling out to Loki's, aching to join in. Their eyes met through the flames and Loki looked at Thor as if he already knew exactly what he was thinking.

Maybe Loki felt it too, the pull of their magic towards each other.

"Oh, come on then," Loki said and Thor didn't need to be told twice.

Thor raised his hands and sent a wave of his own fire up to join Loki's in a torrent of heat and light. It was a wonder to Thor the way their types of magic so perfectly reflected their personalities. Loki's movements were precise, his fire fading in and out of shadow, moving fluidly and effortlessly. And Thor was still strong and forceful, his fire raw, wild and barely restrained.

They moved fire together, the flames building and weaving around each other. Thor's bright orange and red flames met Loki's green as they danced in the air. The flames played off of the brilliant pinks and purples of the sunset to create a riot of color that reminded Thor of the Bifrost.

Thor saw the joy on Loki's face through the flames. He couldn't remember the last time he'd seen his brother look so happy. Thor let out a laugh at the sheer fun of it all and Loki laughed too as they conjured more and more flames. Thor could not help but notice how beautiful Loki looked in the fire light. He wanted to hold onto this image and remember his brother like this always.

When the sun finally sank below the horizon, they let the fires dissipate and they fell down on the grass, laughing like they hadn't since they were children. At this rate they would be late for dinner, but Thor found that he didn't really care.

Loki conjured a magelight and let it hover in the air above them so they could see each other. As they lay on their backs side by side, Thor made up his mind then that he didn't want there to be any more secrets between them. Thor reached out and took Loki's hand in his. Loki's cheeks flushed and though he turned his face away from Thor, he didn't let go.

“What are you doing, Thor?” Loki asked quietly, but Thor didn't answer. They both knew what this was and Thor was grateful that his brother hadn't turned him away, that he seemed to feel the same.

“Such power here,” he marveled, running his thumb over Loki's long fingers. “You amaze me brother. Tell me, what is it like to have power such as yours?”

Loki pulled his hand away but before Thor could protest, his brother conjured green fire on his fingertips and he ran them against Thor's bare arm. It didn't hurt at all, it but it tingled. It felt like gentle sparks wherever it touched him, in a way that energized him and made him feel alive.

“It's a part of me, always,” Loki said. “I feel it simmering in every cell of my skin. It used to scare me, but now it is a comfort. A constant companion.”

Loki let the flames recede from his fingertips into a single flame in his palm.

“Here.”

Thor took the flame in his own hand. Thor took a sharp intake of breath as the energy spread out from the flame and flooded his system until he felt bathed in a pleasant warmth. And to think that Loki felt this way all of the time. There was so much within his brother that others didn't see and there was a selfish part of Thor that relished having this part of Loki all to himself. Though Loki was no longer physically touching Thor, it all felt so intimate to be touching Loki's magic and to be touched by it in return.

Thor never wanted to let the flame go out, but he knew he had to. When the flame died, Thor took his hand and reached out to stroke Loki's cheek. Loki turned his head and they stared at each other for long moments, their eyes saying all the things they didn't yet have the words for. Loki's pale skin practically glowed in the blue magelight and he looked so beautiful that Thor could wait no longer.

He leaned in and kissed Loki firmly on the lips. Loki kissed him back and they both moaned and sighed. Their kisses became more passionate, lips and tongues sliding over each other and it was better than Thor ever could have imagined. They burned so bright together and Thor felt afraid this love would consume them both. But while Thor may have lacked restraint, he had the utmost faith in Loki. Loki knew how to tame fire, how to let it have its beauty without letting it destroying everything in its wake.

Magic had brought them together and stripped away the secrets between them, laying them bare before each other. And Thor knew that before the night was through, he would strip his brother bare in another way and they would make love for the first time there in that little clearing.

Thor would do whatever he could to keep Loki close to him. Because though it was a very powerful force, he didn't need magic to understand what they felt for each other.