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Buffy’s first thought upon waking with something dead in her mouth, a tightness around her left wrist and aches all over, is ouch.

Her second is, I am too old for this shit.

The third is something a lot less coherent that mostly consists of random swearwords in several languages, flashes of the night before and the slow, sinking feeling of there being something very, very wrong.

There was… a party. Which is of the good, because it means she wasn’t kidnapped and drugged to the gills. Again. Once a decade is enough, thanks a lot, her quota is filled.

A party. For her birthday. Three hundred and eleven is an important age for any girl and Thor. Yes. Thor. Her new buddy Thor decided to throw her a birthday bash for the ages.

The date came up in conversation a few weeks after she met him and his merry band of skull crushers on a remote little world in the middle of nowhere and he decided to take her home with them.

Not that she complained. A girl gets lonely, skipping between worlds, carving out temporary lives for herself and then leaving again too quickly. She hasn’t felt like she belongs anywhere since Dawn died, at the ripe age of ninety-two.

Dawn. Dawn. It still hurts, thinking of her baby sister so frail and breakable, but it’s a good hurt after all these years. Slow burn and soft memories.

Dawn left her a vial of her blood with strict instructions to get the hell away from a world that only held memories anymore. “Clean slate. I love you. Goodbye.”

Those were the only words in Dawn’s letter, besides instructions on how to use the blood. Summers blood.

She tried to hold on for a while, tried to not use the vial, but her little sister had always known her too well and eventually, she jumped and landed here, in this universe that’s a lot like her own, except for how there are no ghosts.

She hates how it actually makes things easier. Here, there are no graves to tend, no haunted houses to return to. She moves only at her own pace and everything she loved, she carries with her. Buffy has always been partial to movement.

But Asgard is full of people like her, immortal and powerful, and she likes it here. Likes how no-one looks at her funny for liking weapons and being able to lift boulders like they’re toys. How no-one here ages any more than she does.

Okay, so she’s not exactly down with the constant partying and drinking and the dick measuring that happens all the time, but she feels like she can let her guard down here. Like she can let go a little.

And there’s people who aren’t all mead and feasts, like Loki, Thor’s baby brother.

Mhmmmmm.

Loki is… as unlike as Thor as two people of the same species can be. Where Thor reminds Buffy of nothing so much as an overly excitable dog, Loki is a finely honed blade, sharp and pointed and vicious and beautiful.

She watches him out of her corner of her eyes when he slinks along the edges of the halls, using shadows and tricks instead of hammers and shouted orders. She watches and waits and sometimes she slips away from her new friends and finds him in dark hallways and lets him push her up against a wall and cut her open a little with his silver tongue and his clever hands.

She’s always had too much of a fascination for pointy things.

But last night there was no escaping for a quick roll in the hay with Loki. Thor didn’t let her out of his sight for more than a minute and he kept pouring alcohol down her throat and that’s roughly where things get fuzzy.

God, she really hopes the body she feels next to hers isn’t Thor. She’s sworn off blonds with puppy-dog eyes after Riley and for the past three centuries, she’s stuck with it, too. Shame to ruin that now.

Thor. Party. Booze. Dancing. Sif giggling like a school girl, which was disconcerting.

Loki. Loki at the edge of the dance floor, giving her hot-cold looks whenever she turned his way. Someone – Fandrall – dragging him out of his shadows. The look of discomfort on his face.

It all comes back in flashes and split-second memories.

Leaving Thor to dance with some random girl and saving Loki from Fandrall’s advances by pulling him away from Asgard’s version of flamboyantly gay.

Loki’s hands on her waist, his eyes on her, his voice in her ear, his breath along her cheek as he whispered filthy, wicked things to her and the rolling of her own hips, almost involuntary, against his own.

Sex.

No.

Not sex.

Thor.

Talk about cockblock.

Thor with his arms around both of them, booming on and on about honor and valor and Buffy being his friend and how Loki can’t besmirch – seriously, besmirch? – that and how he wouldn’t allow their affair to continue unless…

“Holy fucking cow, tell me your brother did not drunk marry us last night!!”

She shoots up in bed far too fast, sheets pooling around her waist, immediately noticeable due to the cool morning air in the palace. She moves her hands to grab for the sheet because she’s cold and her left one doesn’t budge.

She blinks down at it, finds it tied to a larger, paler one with a strip of red cloth that looks suspiciously like it came from Thor’s cape. She follows the other hand up to a wrist that looks deceptively fragile – everything about him stronger than it looks – up a bare forearm to his shoulder, his chest, his face.

Loki sits cross-legged as far away from her as he can get without straining both their arms, his hair in an adorable riot of curls he doesn’t let anyone else see. With the windows at his back and his pale skin on display, he looks like he’s glowing.

It’s sort of ridiculous, how she gets a little lost whenever she looks at him too long. No-one, not even gods, get to be that damn pretty. Worse, pretty and strong. Almost a year on Asgard, and that man still makes her stupid.

And now she’s apparently married to him.

She gives up trying to get herself covered and slumps back down.

“He did, didn’t he?”

Loki makes a noise that’s half agreement, half sadistic amusement. She knows that noise, and the look that goes with it. It means he’s unhappy as all get out, but he’ll eat crow before he admits it.

Before she can stop herself, Buffy looks away. It’s not like getting married was in her hundred year plan anyway.

“You know, normal people do things like drunk dial other people. Not drunk marry them. This is completely ridiculous and… did Sif give me away?”

She has this mental picture of striding down a makeshift aisle made from benches and tables, with Sif at her side, still giggling. With a shudder, she blinks it away. It’s not that she doesn’t like the other woman. Any kickass lady that kicks ass is a-okay in Buffy’s book, but Sif is kind of like a female version of Thor. That is to say, she’s best kept at arm’s length, lest she slobber all over you. Overenthusiastic puppy dog analogies have been made aplenty.

And look at her, sounding all British.

Or maybe that’s all Asgardian.

She’s getting off track again.

Loki is sitting still as a statue where she left him, graceful and beautiful and untouchable, haughty expression firmly in place. She doesn’t like it when he looks at her like that, because Loki is danger and power and thrill, but underneath all that and the battle armor, he can be sweet and almost shy. When he’s looking haughty his masks are in place. Buffy doesn’t want him to wear his masks around her.

And yes, she knows that’s stupid. The guy is going on two thousand and they’ve been playing doctor in dark corners for maybe ten months. She’s a mayfly to him and, heck, he is to her, too, in a way. Time passes differently when you live forever.

This is a fling and nothing more.

“It was decided that a warrior of your stature can only be ‘given away’ as you call it, by one of equal standing. Sif volunteered.” His smooth expression slips a little with a grin. “Sif secretly adores weddings.”

Buffy snorts. Figures. No matter how kickass she is, a woman that braids gold thread in her hair would be one to love weddings.

“And then Thor married us, and it’s binding because he’s a prince and he can do that sort of thing, right?”

“Almost,” he corrects. “This,” he raises their joint hands before lowering them in his lap. “means that the marriage has not yet been… consummated. The magic of a fully established bond would undo the knot. Thus it may still be undone by the Allfather.”

She blinks at that for a moment, because she has a case of booze brain and… yeah. Okay. Consummated marriage means the knot comes undone because it’s, what, an unnecessary symbol then? Has done its duty? Been replaced by a more permanent tie? She squints at the memory of Giles telling her to pay attention to these things and then shakes the ghost off in favor of latching onto the ‘not consummated’ part.

“Not been…are you saying Thor got me smashed as hell, I climbed you like a tree, we got married and then didn’t have sex?”

Loki makes a face.

Buffy goes to slap a hand over her mouth and almost yanks his shoulder out of its socket. “Oh my goddess, you had whiskey dick, didn’t you?”

She uses her free hand to smooth her shit-eating grin from her face. It doesn’t work. “Seriously? I’ve seen you drink half of Asgard under the table and still make me a very happy woman afterwards. How much did you drink?”

He shrugs, purses his lips, says nothing. Loki, unlike the rest of this world, doesn’t like to brag. But for once, Buffy would really like him to, because she can’t actually remember seeing him drink more than one or two tankards of mead, and the gods put that away like water. It’s the spirits they import from Alfheim that you have to look out for. They’ll burn holes in your stomach, Buffy has learned.

She shakes the thought off to ask, “So, anything else? Did we adopt a bunch of babies? Did we marry anyone else? Is there such a thing as polyamory in this place?”

“Why? Who would you bed? My brother?”

“Ewwww. Can you not say things like that when we’re naked in bed?”

The thought is not as off-putting as she pretends it is. Let’s face it, Thor is built like, as Faith would have said, a brickshithouse. They don’t stack them like that anymore. Except that Buffy has actually met the man – god, whatever – and she is not having sex with someone that reminds her of a canine.

But Loki kind of lights up like Christmas every time she says something even remotely down-putting against Thor and well, it’s been established that she’s a little stupid for the man. So she exaggerates and if it makes him smile? Win-win.

“You did miss Fandrall’s heartbreaking ode of our eternal love. Volstagg drank the entire batch of Father’s good mead that Thor stole for the occasion. And Sif will deny it to the end of her days, but she cried. I wish I had had one of your recording devices to preserve the moment forever.”

While he’s talking, Buffy gets flashes of a few of the things he’s telling her. Volstagg with food in his beard, proving he has no table manners. Sif cursing ‘all that dust in the air’. Fandrall singing some sappy ballad he probably made up on the spot. If that dude isn’t gay, Buffy’s gaydar is forever broken.

She’s wondering if she really did see Fandrall drag Hogun out of his dark corner to dance, when a thought suddenly occurs to her.

“How the heck do you remember all that? Whiskey dick but not blackout?”

He shrugs and tugs on her hand. “Come, we should get dressed and speak to my father about this.”

“No way,” she snaps and pulls hard, sending him sprawling on top of her, where he stays, eyes narrowed to glare at her. “What are you-“

“No. Way,” she repeats, sharper. “You, bucko, may be the god of lies, but that was the second time you fudged me this morning and you didn’t even do it well so what the hell is going on?!”

“What happened to your ‘heck’? I was beginning to find it adorable.”

Adorable her well-shaped ass, she thinks and grabs a fistful of his curls to drag him closer. “Why are you lying? Better yet, why are you lying badly?”

He smirks, and it’s all ugly and up in your face and she wants to smack him for using it on her. Just a fling. Just a fling. Except they’re married and he’s lying and –

“You weren’t drunk at all,” she realizes, blurting it out on the exhale, fast and shrill and, and….

What the hell?

“You weren’t drunk and you didn’t have whiskey dick. You were… you let Thor marry us. You...” she shoves at him until he rolls off her and fights the urge to punch him in his smug, perfect face. “Was it even his idea? Or did you just make him think it was?”

She sits back up and starts pulling at the scrap of fabric binding them together because she’ll be damned if she spends another second bound to this asshole, in any sense of the word. He engineered this. The whole damn night, probably, from the booze right down to the ceremony. He had Thor marry them as a joke.

She wants to strangle him, hurt him, make him bleed, for doing this to her. For being cruel like this, planned and on purpose. And for what? Cheap kicks?

Except something like surprise, naked and stark, flashes across his face. Vulnerable.

“What?” she bites. “Didn’t think I’d figure it out?”

“No-one ever does,” he answers, and it’s quiet, like a confession.

“Do this a lot then?”

He flinches.

It makes her angrier. It also makes her want to cry a little and her attack on the strip of cloth becomes less coordinated and more desperate. She needs to get out of this bed, this room, this palace. She needs to get off this world.

Suddenly, he twists his bound hand around to capture hers and lays his free hand on top. “No-one ever catches my tricks,” he whispers. He’s far too close and speaking into her ear without meeting her gaze. She tugs on her hand, but he’s a god and he doesn’t want her to move. So she can’t.

But she can clench her jaw and turn her head away.

“No-one ever bothers to try. No-one ever joins me in the shadows instead of trying to pull me from them. No-one ever chooses me over my brother. No-one, do you understand me, you volatile woman? No-one ever picks me. Except for you.”

She lets her hand go limp, stops her furious tugging, stops struggling because she’s never heard him like this. She’s never heard Loki sound so raw.

“You see me for what I am, danger and poison, and you still choose to spend your nights with me, rather than with any of the warriors that would bed you. You laugh at my jokes. You… I wanted to keep you and what way do I know, but tricks? So I tricked Thor and I tricked his friends and I tricked you. But I couldn’t…”

“You couldn’t go through with it,” she finishes for him, realization dawning, slow and pale and open. “Which is why we’re only half married.”

He nods and she only feels it against her neck and shoulder, can’t see him or his face. He’s hiding. He’s ashamed. Because he tricked her into marrying him, thinking her had no chance asking outright and…

Oh, Loki.

He wants her.

He wants to keep her.

He wants her badly enough to lie.

He tricked her into marrying him.

It’s fucked up. It’s actually more fucked up than Spike trying to declare his love by killing Drusilla for her. It’s more fucked up than Angel leaving dead bodies as courting gifts for her. Because this isn’t violence. This isn’t a man demanding to have her.

This is a man so screwed in the head that he thinks the only way he could have her is by stealing her.

And maybe this is only a fling and maybe it’s only gone on for the blink of an eye, but Buffy is a little stupidly in love with the god of lies anyway and hey, look, he feels the same way.

For a long time, she lets that settle, lets the pieces slot into place. Loki stays with his face hidden in her neck and she thinks she can feel wetness there but doesn’t think about it, doesn’t want to. The sun shifts until it doesn’t hit the bed anymore and she gets even colder.

“I’d tell you never to lie to me again,” she starts eventually, carefully picking her words, “but that’s kind of what you do. But I need you to promise me, that if you want something from me, you ask before you try to steal it.” She shrugs her shoulder, jostling him. “Promise me you’ll ask.”

Silence.

She’s holding her breath, waiting, because if he won’t promise, if he doesn’t care enough for that, at least, then they’re right back where they started and she’s not…

He nods.

She exhales.

She exhales and slowly, very slowly, she pulls her hands from where he’s still holding on to them like they’re the last part of her he’s got left. She raises them slowly and tugs on his hair, turning him to face her.

He looks wrecked and the girlish part of her squees at being allowed to see him like this. No masks. She smiles at him, sadly, because, god, look at them.

He’s so screwed-up he doesn’t think he deserves anything good and she’s been running from herself for two hundred years and still not gotten anywhere. He’s scared of having things and she’s scared of losing them and, and, and.

So many reasons this is a bad idea.

She kisses him.

Sweet and slow and gentle, which is new for them, because until now they’ve always stolen kisses in dark corners, or traded them with a fierce hunger, stealing the other’s breath away.

They’ve never done this, just kissed like it’s the best thing in the world, like there’s nothing else they’d rather be doing in the morning, in the sunshine, to fight off the chill.

When she pulls back, he blinks. “What?”

She shushes him with a finger to his lips, takes a deep breath and says, “I believe we have a marriage to consummate, Mister. So get to it.”

The look on his face is hope and wonder and relief and disbelief and Buffy loves him for it.

Finally he tilts his head, smiling, and some of the smugness, of his usual poise is slipping back in as he offers a smooth, “Milady,” before tackling her to the bed.

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Later, when the magic on the binding has been dissolved, Loki moves to throw the red strip toward the rest of their clothes and be done with it.

She snags it from him and winds it around her wrist, one, two, three times before holding her hand out for him to tie it off.

“Make sure it holds,” she commands.

He does.

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