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A Prelude

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The place was a desolate wasteland of endless ice fields and razor-sharp rocks like spots of rot where they poked out of the snow. The night sky above Jötunheimr gaped over the realm like a hungry maw, black and bottomless save for the blood-red moon that hung low in the horizon.

Thor lifted his hand to cover his face from the gusty winds as he waded forward in knee-deep snow. His fingers and toes were close to numb, and the road he’d travelled was quickly getting lost behind a veil of snow, but the possibility of going back empty-handed and losing his bet with Siggeir was simply unacceptable. He’d spent an entire month boasting about marching into Jötunheimr and felling a giant as if it were no great effort at all, and he’d dig through permafrost to find one if that’s what it took to spare himself from the shame of failure.

Another hour of trekking through the snow found him deeper in enemy territory, but he was no closer to reaching his goal, and he felt cheated as his childhood stories of trolls and hulking bears and palaces made of ice began to look more and more like falsehoods, for no living soul seemed to inhabit this dead world. Perhaps he’d taken a wrong turn and ended up in Niflheimr instead?

He thought of Heimdall and his all-seeing gaze, and the fact that Thor was meant to be on Midgard, helping the farmers to water their crops and build new homesteads. If the gatekeeper discovered that Thor had crossed the border and entered Jötunheimr without the Allfather's consent, his chances of slaying a frost giant would go from slim to nonexistent.


Perhaps the best way to find himself something to kill was a good, old-fashioned threat Thor thought, wrapping his hand around Mjöllnir’s hilt and lifting the hammer from his belt as he announced his presence to whoever might hear him.

"I am Thor of the Æsir and I mean to slay any frost giant who dares to cross my path!"

His threat was swallowed by the howling winds, and he repeated himself until he was too embarrassed to continue shouting, quite certain no living soul had heard him.

He lowered his hammer, giving the snow at his feet a frustrated kick when the wind finally carried an answer.

"You've come a long way to die, Ása-Thor."

Thor looked up, his mouth splitting into a broad grin. Perhaps he'd get to slay a giant after all!

He brandished his hammer and got ready to find his prey when a blinding cloud of snow fell on his head from the ledge above. Thor let out a surprised yelp at the sudden heavy weight that settled on his back.

“Umpf!”

He thrashed and spun around as long blue limbs wrapped around his body, but a sharp sting of ice against his jugular had him freeze in place.

The blade left a shallow cut on his skin and he shattered it with a light knock from Mjöllnir, watching as the shards disappeared into the wind. His assailant snarled, taken aback by the sudden loss of their weapon, and Thor used the opportunity to finally shake them off.

The creature fell down with a soft thump, and Thor whirled around, the hammer in his hand spitting out a few sparks of lightning.

“I hope you’re prepared to die for that-“

Shock and disappointment dimmed his battle lust when Thor laid his eyes upon the tiny frostling in front of him. He stared as it… he… stumbled back to his feet, so small in size that one would not call him a giant even as a jest. Thor lowered his hammer, for there was no honor in slaying a mere child.

Child or not, the frostling was not giving up, rushing at Thor and climbing up his body. There was a surprising amount of strength in his limbs as he wrapped them around Thor’s waist and neck, his red eyes burning with unrelenting rage, spidery fingers grabbing at Thor's cloak to rip it right off his body.

Thor tried to knock the jötunn off his back with Mjöllnir, but the creature was nimble enough to avoid every swing. Thor heard him click his tongue in a strange pattern and saw a furry rat-like creature jump out of a nearby snowbank. It weaseled its way up Thor's leg and he howled in pain as he felt it bite into his exposed wrist. He lost his grip on Mjöllnir and the hammer landed on the ground with a heavy thump. Thor let out a horrified shriek when he felt the vermin slip in through his sleeve and sink its teeth into the soft skin above his elbow.

"Stop! Stop! That's enough, you little beast!"

The jötunn wrapped his thighs tighter around Thor's waist, the look in his eyes offended. "What did you call me?" he growled in his thick jötunn accent, revealing a sharp set of white teeth. "A beast, am I?"

"No- not you!" Thor yelped as a blur of white fur wriggled out through the collar of his tunic and wrapped around his neck. "I meant your rat or whatever this creature might be. Call him off! He's going to gnaw my ear off."

The jötunn looked pleased, his smile growing wider still as the furry pest began to nibble at Thor's ear.

"Call him off? I think not. In fact, I think I'll have him take your eyes as well as your ears."

Thor knew he was beaten, for he could not slay or harm a child, not even a frost giant, and so he had no choice but to swallow his pride if he wanted to keep his body parts intact.

"Please, I- I yield," he whispered, his voice almost inaudible in the howling wind.

But the jötunn had heard him. Slowly, he released his hold around Thor's waist and set his feet on the ground. Taking a few steps back, he placed his hand on Thor's shoulder and clicked his tongue. The animal ceased its biting, scuttled up the jötunn's arm and coiled around his shoulder to stare at Thor with beady eyes.

Thor glared at the vicious little beast – both of them – and brushed his fingers against his ear, but he appeared to be unharmed, save for a small trickle of blood from the wound on his neck.

He was suddenly aware of the cold that bit through his tunic and he turned around to retrieve his cloak from where it had landed when the jötunn ripped it off. He wrapped it around his shoulders, frowning when he saw that the golden brooches at the collar had been torn off, lost forever in the snow. His mother was going to throttle him...

Thor glanced up from his cloak to see the jötunn and his little weasel circling around Mjöllnir. Both of them had their paws on the uru-head, and Thor felt a jolt of possessive jealousy at the sight.

"Do not touch her, for she is mine alone to wield!

The jötunn ignored him, wrapping his fingers around the handle, attempting to lift the hammer. Thor grinned with the knowledge that Mjöllnir wouldn’t budge even as the little jötunn kept on trying, yanking and pulling until he lost his balance, tumbling back and falling on his behind.

"She is called Mjöllnir and only I can lift her", Thor said with a smug smile.

He picked the hammer up as if it weighed nothing at all, and the jötunn stared at him with a look of open wonder on his face that shifted into an unimpressed scowl when Thor swung Mjöllnir around in an effort to show off. The jötunn turned his attention to his little weasel, petting its sleek fur affectionately and murmuring something in a language that wasn’t Allspeak. The sing-song tone of it was strange to Thor, but if he had to venture a guess, he'd say the weasel was getting praise for nearly devouring Thor's ear.

The day had certainly taken a surprising turn, and Thor still had no idea what to make of the tiny jötunn. He was not how Thor expected a frost giant to look, for he was slight in build, smaller even than Thor. The creature's blue skin was covered with thin markings, and Thor couldn’t quite tell if they were part of his skin or blue paint. There was a dark red streak painted across the jötunn's eyes, giving his face a permanently angry look. Illustrations of frost giants didn’t often give them hair, certainly not as long as the thick mass of black hair that swirled around this particular jötunn's face where it had escaped his long braid.

"Are you certain you’re a frost giant?” Thor asked, sounding unconvinced. “Why are you so small? Where are all the real giants and why are you all alone in this dead wasteland?"

The jötunn stopped petting his weasel and before Thor could blink, there was a fresh blade of ice in his hand. It seemed to have sprouted there out of thin air, and Thor realized the jötunn knew how to work seiðr. Perhaps he was a witch or a shaman, his small size just an illusion to lull his foes into a false sense of security?

"I meant no offense..." Thor grinned sheepishly. "I’m Thor, son of Odin and the heir to the throne of Asgard.”

The blade of ice melted away, but the jötunn’s painted lips curled up in a sneer. “Oh, we have heard of the mighty Odinson, even in this dead wasteland.”

Thor’s eyes lit up with mirth at the knowledge that his name was known in an enemy realm. “I cannot say that I’m surprised, for word of my deeds has traveled far and wide,” he grinned, his chest expanding with childish glee. “Well then, tell me, what do they say about Thor Odinson in this land?”

“Many things, oh mighty Thunderer.” The jötunn slinked closer, voice honeyed and face the picture of false admiration. “They say the son of Odin is as arrogant as he is dimwitted. Some say he was born that way while others claim there is a whetstone lodged in his thick skull, but I see no whetstone, which must mean-”

Thor’s temper flared at the open mockery. “Hold your wicked tongue, jötunn!” he snarled. “Child or not, I will not hesitate to rip it out of your mouth.”

“I am no child,” the jötunn huffed, visibly offended by Thor’s presumption. “I may be small in build, but I am of age, have been for many moons now.”

Thor let his eyes rake over the jötunn’s lithe form, about to voice his doubts when the wind carried a blood-chilling howl to their ears, echoing and bouncing off the mountainsides. Thor felt his skin crawl and even the jötunn looked alarmed. He hugged his pet close to his chest and, without another word, darted off into the night.

"Hey! Wait! Where are you going?”

The howling increased, and Thor spun around, wondering if Sköll and Hati, the wolves that forever chase the Moon and the Sun had descended from the sky to chase him instead. It appeared the realm was not as dead as he’d thought, and fixing his eyes on the ground, Thor began to follow the jötunn's tracks before they were erased by the thickening snowfall.

He tried to hurry as more voices joined the shrill howling, but it was becoming clear that he’d lost the jötunn's tracks and any sense of direction he may have had. The world around him was draped in snow and everything looked the same, the unforgiving chill in the air biting bone-deep. Thor briefly thought of turning his gaze up to the sky and calling for Heimdall to open the Bifröst for him, but the mere thought of the punishment he'd be sure to receive for sneaking into a forbidden realm was enough to stop him.

The snow reached up to his hips now and the muscles in his legs burned with exhaustion. His clothes were soaking wet and his face and hands raw pink with frostbite, and he let out a quiet huff of laughter as he realized that Thor, Son of Odin and future lord of weather was about to be bested by a snow storm. He managed another few hundred feet before he fell on his knees, finally succumbing to the cold. Mjöllnir hummed against his hip, but even her call wasn’t enough to get him back on his feet.

He didn’t realize he’d fallen asleep until he woke to something hauling him through the snow. More howls sounded in the distance, but Thor was too delirious to try and make out any details in the dark shape that loomed in front of him. It could be a giant or a troll, Thor didn’t care. He just wanted to sleep.

The next time he opened his eyes, Mjöllnir instantly flew to his hand and he gripped her handle like a lifeline. Sensing movement to his right, Thor turned his head, pointing his hammer at the shadowy figure nearby.

The shadow spoke, and Thor felt a rush of relief, for he knew that voice.

"Do you mean to smash my skull after I've just rescued your sorry hide from certain death? Put down that lump of stone, now.”

Thor glared at the small jötunn as he sat up with some difficulty, his joints still stiff from the cold. "Lump of stone?" he grumbled, feeling genuinely offended on his hammer's behalf. He set Mjöllnir down and glanced around the small cave they were huddled in. His boots, vest, tunic and breeches hung from a string of ice at the back of the cave, letting off a steady drip of water. Thor lifted the musty-smelling furs he was wrapped in, relieved to discover that he was still wearing his smallclothes.

“You really are a fool, Odinson,” the jötunn admonished. “For only a fool would wander about in the Valley of Winds when Skaði’s fury is upon us.”

“You are one to talk,” Thor countered, for he was not alone in that storm.

They sat on opposite sides of the cave, watching each other with equally distrusting eyes as the storm raged on. Thor had no real understanding of seiðr, but the walls of the cave looked too smooth and polished to have been made by nature, and the dim blue light glowing just beneath the surface definitely reminded him of his mother’s spellwork.

“Did you make this cave yourself?”

The jötunn ignored him, crawling across the cave floor, his pet weasel scurrying behind him as he began to go through the contents of Thor’s leather bag.

"Hey! Those are my rations."

The jötunn let out an angry hiss as Thor grabbed a hold of his bag, and they had a small tug of war, which the horrid little weasel ended in its master’s favor by sinking its teeth in Thor's knuckles.

“Norns, I hate that thing…” Thor grumbled, licking at the small teeth marks left on his skin. The jötunn rushed to the other side of the cave with Thor's bag clutched to his chest, ignoring the murderous glare Thor sent his way, digging through the contents of the bag with eager fingers.

"Don't look so glum, little áss. It's only fair that I get something for saving your wretched life."

Thor felt his temper rise again in spite of the exhaustion that lingered in his bones. "Who are you calling little, you runt? I very much doubt you even are a real frost giant..."

The jötunn snapped his head up, and Thor was taken aback by the anger in his red eyes.

"I am Loki Laufeyson, and I'll have you know that by offending me you also offend the royal house of Laufey!"

Thor stared at him in amused disbelief. "A runt like you a prince of Jötunheimr?" he snorted. "Surely you jest."

Thor flinched when the jötunn flung a piece of rye bread he'd found in the bag at him. He caught it with little less grace than normal, the sight of food making both of them forget the argument almost instantly.

Thor devoured the piece of bread in three large bites, but his hunger was nothing compared to the way Loki's eyes lit up with naked greed when he realized the bag he stole was filled with food. He reached in and began to eat everything he found, barely stopping to chew.

Thor stared in horrified awe as apples, potatoes, chunks of dried elk meat and several dried herring all disappear into Loki’s hungry maw. It almost looked like the heir of Laufey hadn’t had anything to eat for weeks, perhaps months. Even the weasel was excitedly gnawing on the fish bones and apple cores Loki kept tossing to the floor.

"Slow down or you'll burst..." Thor warned, but Loki didn’t even seem to hear him.

He ate and ate and Thor watched with growing worry as Loki sank his teeth into another half frozen herring. A sickening crunch echoed in the cave as fish bones broke between sharp teeth.

“Uhh,” Loki panted. He dropped the half-eaten fish from his hands and slumped against the wall. “I don’t feel good.”

Thor got up and wrenched the bag of food away, hiding it behind his back. Loki let out a weak whine, but put up no real fight. He hunched over in front of Thor, cradling his stomach in his hands, and moments later, most of its contents were all over the cave floor.

Thor grunted in disgust at Loki’s loud heaving, backing away as some of the sick splattered on his bare feet.

“You poisoned me, didn’t you! You cruel áss!” Loki whimpered, shooting Thor an accusing glare.

"The only thing I did was warn you not to stuff your face, you glutton!" Thor scolded, shaking his head. "Now look at yourself... You've gone and devoured so much food that you've made yourself ill."

Loki coughed and spit out another puddle of half-chewed food. The smell was strong enough to make Thor gag and he pinched his nose, following Loki with his eyes as he crawled on all fours towards a small nest of furs. He looked utterly humiliated, and Thor watched him bury his face in the soft furs.

Thor listened to him whine as he cradled his aching stomach, the sight too pitiful to ignore, but Loki slapped away the hand Thor tried to place on his back, the sudden movement only causing him more pain. Thor peeked over Loki's hunched shoulder and saw he was flushed all over, the red around his eyes smearing and rubbing off as Loki kept sweating into the furs.

Thor could hardly believe that the whimpering creature in front of him was indeed one of the terrible frost giants mothers in Asgard told stories about to scare their children into obedience.

The smell of vomit in the cave was hard to ignore and Thor pulled on his soggy boots, stepping outside long enough to fetch an armful of snow. He used it to cover the pool of sick until the smell was drowned underneath it and crawled back to Loki who was still letting out pitiful wails. Thor moved his hand toward Loki's stomach, slowly, as if he were approaching a wounded animal.

"Insolent Áss! If you value your life, you will keep your hands to yourself," Loki growled, slapping Thor’s hand away.

“Fine, I won’t touch your royal hide,” Thor huffed, rolling his eyes. “I only wished to help."

Loki glared at Thor over his shoulder, his eyes narrowed. "And how, pray tell, would pawing at my stomach help?"

“My mother says I have a soothing touch, that I have healing hands like hers.”

Loki continued to watch Thor with open suspicion. His brows pinched together with visible pain and he let out a stuttering sigh. “Fine.” He rolled onto his back and straightened his limbs in what Thor took to be an invitation to try and alleviate his suffering. “But if those healing hands of yours begin to wander, I promise you I’ll wear your scalp for a hat.”

Thor gave a solemn nod, biting his lip to keep the smile tugging at the corner of his mouth at bay. He rubbed his hands together and settled them against Loki’s heaving belly, slow and gentle. Loki flinched at the touch, his gaze never leaving Thor’s hands as he began to rub his stomach through the worn fur vest Loki wore over his torso.

Thor didn’t know what strange power coursed in his veins, but many a young maiden had complimented him on his soothing touch when a tumble in bed was prevented by their monthly blood. He watched as the tight, closed-off look on Loki’s face began to fade, his entire body becoming more relaxed as Thor continued to touch him with gentle hands. It didn't take long for Loki’s eyes to start to droop and for his whines to cease altogether.

"If you violate me in any way while I sleep…" he mumbled, already losing the battle to keep his eyes open. “Just remember… your scalp... my new hat.”

Thor saw the exact moment when Loki fell asleep, for the pinch between his brows melted away and his head lolled against the furs. He took the opportunity to move closer, finally able to truly look at the little jötunn’s face.

Loki did look young, perhaps a few centuries Thor’s junior. The red paint around his eyes had rubbed off on the furs and only small traces of it remained at the corners of Loki’s eyes. Even the blue lines all over his skin appeared to be paint instead of something he’d been born with, the intricate patterns smudged and washed away by sweat and snow.

His features were strange for a giant, sharp yet oddly delicate. He looked nothing like his sire in the illustrations Thor had seen of the King of Jötunheimr, but his haughty demeanor left no doubt in Thor’s mind that Loki truly was of the royal house of Laufey.

He settled into the furs next to Loki, and he couldn’t quite decide if he was disappointed or pleased that the stories claiming all frost giants to be brutish monsters weren’t true after all.

**


Time passed as they slept, days turning into weeks, until Thor finally woke to a soft thumping sound. He stretched his sore muscles, looking around with eyes still bleary from his long sleep. It took him a moment to remember that he was not in his own comfortable bed, but in a cave in the cold wasteland of Jötunheimr. When realization finally hit him, Thor was awake and up on his feet faster than the lightning he was slowly learning to harness from the clouds.

Loki glanced at him over his shoulder, lifting one dark eyebrow at Thor before going back to digging through the snow that blocked the entrance.

"You snore like a troll," Loki said instead of wishing Thor a good morrow. "And reek like one too."

Thor lifted his arm and after one whiff at his arm pit promptly decided not to argue with Loki. But in his defense, Loki didn’t look very high and mighty either. Strands of his long black hair were tangled in his horns and it looked like he had a bird's nest in his head.

"How long have we been a sleep?" Thor wondered, scratching at his own tangled mop of hair.

Loki poked his hand through the snowbank, followed by his head and torso. When he pulled back in, there was snow stuck in his hair, some of it melting down his face. "I'd say it's been about a month, give or take. The storm has passed."

"A month?" Thor dashed around the small cave and started to pull on his clothes. "Odin is going to flog me for this... I can't believe we slept for a whole month! Did you put some kind of spell on me, jötunn?" He shot Loki an accusing glare, tempted to wipe off the amused grin on his face.

“This is my hibernation cave,” Loki stated, as if that alone would provide an answer to everything.

Thor yanked on his tunic and gave Loki a questioning look. “And? Is that supposed to tell me something?”

Loki rolled his eyes and exhaled a long-suffering sigh. “A hibernation cave like this is designed to keep us in deep slumber. A month is not that long a time,” he huffed. “I can slumber for six or seven moons if the mood strikes me.”

"Well I certainly can’t!” Thor cried out. “If the people of Midgard have suffered any hardships because of my absence, my father will be sure to know that I wasn't there."

Loki’s smile turned sly as he realized Thor was in trouble. "Sneaking off without father’s permission, are we? How did you get here, anyway?" Loki asked, untangling his long hair from his horns.

"Your borders aren't that well-guarded these days. It was no hardship to get through the mountain pass that separates this land from the world of men. Besides, my father had already sent me down to Midgard to help the people in the eastern regions. The old passage to Jötunheimr lies not far from the village I arrived in. It was child’s play, really."

Loki looked visibly surprised to learn that Thor knew of the old passage through the mountains. “And what exactly are you doing here?”

"I grew up with stories about the last Great War between our peoples, and it has always been considered a great feat among the Æsir to-"

"-slay one of the beastly frost giants," Loki interrupted with a grim sneer.

Thor felt his cheeks grow warm with the sudden shame that flared in his chest.

"Well, do you still mean to slay me, Ása-Thor? Bring my head with you as a sign of your manhood, nail it above the mantelpiece in your royal chambers?"

Thor was unable to meet Loki's eyes after that. He stared at his boots instead, slowly pushing Mjöllnir behind his back and out of sight. Loki shot him a withering look, not bothering to hide the disgust on his face. He called for his little weasel and together they disappeared through the small hole Loki had dug into the snowbank.

Thor gathered his belongings, feeling a little angry at himself, and at Loki for making him feel so guilty about something that was supposed to be a great deed. Surely the frost giants weren’t that fond of the Æsir either. Wouldn’t they, in fact, have even more reason for hatred after Odin took the Casket of Ancient Winters from them, leaving their realm and its people to face slow but certain doom?

When Thor finally poked his head out of the cave, his eyes were instantly blinded by the bright snow all around him. The sky was as blue as it was in Asgard in the summer, but the snow reflecting the sunlight made it feel many times brighter.

“The eagle-giant Hræsvelgr no longer beats his wings at the end of the world, and the winds he creates have ceased to blow.” Loki said, still not meeting Thor’s eyes.

“Thank the Norns…”

All around them the ice was thawing and slowly dripping in the sunlight, and Thor figured it must be springtime in Jötunheimr. That is, if such a thing even existed.

He looked around, trying to spot a landmark or anything that could point him back to the road that would lead him home, but there was only snow and razor-sharp mountains as far as the eye could see. Thor wondered if there was any way for him to trick Loki into pointing the right way without feeling utterly embarrassed about it when he heard a quiet sniff right behind his left ear. He spun around and jumped when he realized Loki was closer than before. Much closer. And taking in his scent.

Thor let out a confused laugh. "Were you just smelling me?"

Loki's cheeks flushed deep blue at being caught, and there wasn’t much he could do to deny that he was indeed, smelling Thor.

"Well, as I said before, you reek like a troll," Loki grumbled, visibly flustered. "Actually, you smell worse than a troll. Do you really intend to go back to your human pets in that condition? They will rename you the God of Dung."

Thor wanted to take offence at the mocking words, but Loki was right, he couldn’t possibly go back looking like a pauper. "Well, what do you suggest I do? Roll around in the snow like a dog?"

The thought seemed to amuse Loki, but he shook his head, motioning for Thor to follow. "Come. I know a place where you can bathe."

Neither of them spoke much as they walked along the edge of a vast glacier. Loki led the way, stealing quick glances at Thor over his shoulder every now and again. He seemed to know where the ground was unsafe, when to slow down and when to move faster, and Thor was certain he had never seen anyone move so gracefully on icy terrain. He tried to follow Loki’s example, but he felt his boots slip and sink in the snow, too soft to support his weight. As he trudged along behind Loki, trying to keep his balance and stay on his feet, he wondered why a son of Laufey was all alone in this forsaken place with nothing but a little weasel for company.

Loki led them west until they reached the indigo shadow of one of the smaller mountains. Days in Jötunheimr were short and the blue hour was already upon them when they arrived at their destination. Thor rubbed his eyes, thinking they had gone blurry, but he soon realized that there was steam rising from the rocky terrain. It drifted through the brisk air, embracing Thor like his warmest fur cloak.

The source of the mist was a small hot spring to their left, half hidden behind a cluster of boulders. The water in the pool was almost turquoise and the air smelled distinctly of sulfur. Thor couldn’t stop his nose from wrinkling, but Loki seemed unaffected and didn’t spare Thor another glance as he began to remove his clothes. He folded them neatly on the rocks near the edge of the spring, and his weasel curled on top of them and went to sleep. Loki removed the small fur ornaments dangling from his left horn, and when he began to unwrap the loincloth around his narrow hips, Thor hurried to turn his eyes away. He didn’t look back until he heard a soft splash that indicated that Loki had slipped into the pool.

"Well? Are you coming in or not?" Loki asked.

Thor was too tempted by the steaming hot water to feel modest, but it didn’t stop him from blushing a little when Loki continued to watch him undress.

"You are staring," Thor grumbled.

"Oh? Am I?" Loki grinned.

"Aye! And it's making me feel uncomfortable." Thor removed his breeches, cupping his crotch to conceal himself from Loki's openly staring gaze.

"Why should you feel uncomfortable?" The teasing smile on Loki’s blue lips grews wider. "You don't have anything to hide, do you, Odinson?"

Thor never was very good at turning down a challenge, and there was definitely a challenge in Loki's mocking question. Thor cleared his throat and dropped his hands, briefly hoping that the cold air hadn't made anything between his legs shrink too much as he marched toward the hot spring.

Loki was still watching him, his brows arched and lower lip caught between pearly white teeth as all of Thor was revealed to him.

Thor felt his face heat up, not sure if it was from the attention he was getting from Loki or from the hot steam that floated all around them. The water in the spring felt scalding on his skin after the trek through the icy plains, but Thor forced himself to relax against the rocks that protruded behind his back. The long sleep in the cave had left his body stiff and sore, but the warmth was already seeping into his muscles, relieving the tension.

He watched as Loki began to wash himself, cupping water in his hands and scrubbing away the last traces of decorative paint from his face and the rest of his body. When he was clean, he sat down to clear the tangles in his long hair that floated around him like a spill of ink in the turquoise water.

Thor followed Loki's example, scrubbing his body and hair as thoroughly as he could, and when he was done, he rested his head against the edge of the pool and let his eyes fall closed. Who knew one could be this comfortable in Jötunheimr? When he opened his eyes again, he noticed Loki was sitting much closer than before. Thor’s first instinct was to move further away, but his pride kept him rooted where he sat. Neither of them had shown any desire to even acknowledge what happened on the night when Thor first ventured into Jötunheimr, and Thor had a feeling that Loki would throttle him if he were to mention Loki’s careless gluttony. But he was curious to know why a frost giant had decided to save the life of an áss.

“On the night we met, you could have left me to die out there in the snow. Why did you come back for me? How did you even know I would follow your tracks instead of heading in the opposite direction?”

Loki’s smile was mocking and his tone sarcastic. “Of course a stubborn fool like you would come after me.”

Thor gave Loki an unimpressed look, refusing to play his little game.

Loki sighed, glaring at Thor as if he were a child. “You do realize that any death of an áss that occurs within our borders, even if it was caused by their own stupidity, will be blamed on our people. The death of a prince could have led us to a new war.”

Thor flushed with horror-laced shame as he realized just how reckless his little expedition into Jötunheimr had been. He cleared his throat, eager to steer the conversation in another direction.

"So... Will you tell me why you are all alone here in these icy wastes, sleeping in a musty cave instead of feasting in your father’s hall?"

“There hasn't been any feasting in our halls after the Great War," was all Loki was willing to say.

“But does your family not miss you?"

Loki let out a bitter laugh. "We Jötnar are not known for our sentimentality, Laufey-King least of all. And if you’re a runt like me..."

Loki didn’t finish his sentence, and Thor thought it best to drop the subject before the mood got any more awkward.

He stood up, about to get out of the spring, but long fingers around his wrist stopped him and pulled him back down.

“If you’re a runt like me…” Loki continued, red eyes dark with a new emotion, one that Thor didn't recognize until he was being pressed against the rocks and Loki was climbing into his lap. “Well, it's not every day you come across something that fits you as perfectly as… this."

Thor could do nothing to prevent the groan that escaped his lips as he felt Loki's long fingers around his still soft prick.

“For you see, most Jötnar really are like the ones in your stories. Big and brutish.” Loki’s voice was honeyed, his lips curving mischievously. “But you, Thor Odinson, are just the right size.”

And then Loki was upon him, pressing against his chest and settling into his lap, fully hard against Thor’s stomach.

“What… Why-“

“Because I want to,” Loki whispered into Thor’s ear. “Because this could be the only chance I get for a thousand years.” He moved his slender fingers up and down Thor’s rapidly hardening cock. “Because I desire to rut and you alone will fit me, little áss.”

Thor almost took offence at being called little again, but Loki made sure to soften the blow of his words with his nimble fingers. “Not so little down here, though,” he hummed, rolling back Thor’s foreskin to rub his thumb against the head before moving down to feel the weight of Thor’s full sack. “Perhaps I should take my words back?”

Thor’s mind was still reeling from the sudden turn of events. He hardly knew Loki, and the fact that he was the son of a sworn enemy should certainly be enough to stop Thor’s own hands from drifting down to Loki’s hips. His touch seemed to spur Loki on and he began to grind against Thor’s stomach, the water around them sloshing against the rocks.

“Touch me,” Loki panted, both a plea and a command.

Thor was happy to obey and he let his fingers quest between Loki’s thighs, sliding them into the crevice of his ass and over the tiny pucker. Loki smiled and reached down to guide Thor’s hand lower until his fingers touched plump folds he’s only ever found between the thighs of a woman. They parted for him like a flower bloom as he pressed one finger into the slit, his touch coaxing a pleased moan from Loki’s half-parted lips.

“By Bor… What are you?” Thor whispered, suddenly breathless with awe and want in equal measure.

Loki smirked, moving his hips until his soft folds slid over Thor’s straining prick. “I am Loki.”

It was Loki who initiated their first kiss, grinding his cunt against the swollen head of Thor’s cock as his own stiff prick kept sliding against his abdomen. Thor moved his hands up to Loki’s neck to deepen their kiss, burying his fingers into the wet mass of black hair.

He moved his grip on Loki’s hair up to his knotty horns, grabbing them firmly to better guide Loki’s head in their kiss only to be rewarded with a painful bite on his lower lip.

Loki slapped his hands and Thor immediately released his hold on his horns.

Never presume to touch them without my permission,” Loki snarled, his accent suddenly thick because of the anger in his voice.

Thor stared at Loki, dumbfounded, wondering what in Ymir’s name he had done wrong. “I meant no offence. But I don’t understand… They’re just horns, are they not?“

“They are not just horns, they’re my horns and you don’t have the right to touch them, because I am not yours,” Loki cried out, visibly offended by Thor’s mistake.

Thor shook his head, feeling a little helpless now. “I truly am sorry, Loki. I didn’t mean to offend you.”

Loki took a deep breath, seeming to accept Thor’s apology. “It’s… It’s fine. You didn’t know,” he sighed, wading back into Thor’s arms. “Somehow I doubt your knowledge about Jötnar is very accurate at all…”

After everything he’d seen and experienced on his first adventure to Jötunheimr, Thor couldn’t help but agree with Loki.

The mood had been ruined somewhat by the incident, and Thor didn’t quite know how to proceed. Loki must have noticed his hesitation, for he climbed back into his lap, pressing chaste little kisses against Thor’s hairline before moving down to lure Thor’s tongue back into his mouth.

“It’s alright, you are forgiven,” he whispered into their kiss, coaxing Thor’s hands back on his body.

They touched and explored, exchanging languid kisses, until Thor's want grew too strong to ignore. “I wish to see you,” he panted between their kisses. “And to taste you,” Another kiss. “And to be inside of you.”

Loki’s gaze darted to the side, but he didn’t struggle when Thor lifted his body out of the spring, settling him down on the edge of the pool until he was lying on his stomach, his legs submerged, but the rest of his body visible for Thor’s hungry gaze.

Thor stared at the soft folds peeking between Loki’s thighs, flushed a deeper shade of blue than the rest of his body, and wet with more than just the water from the hot spring. Unable to resist, Thor finally reached out to fit two of his fingers at the tiny opening. “Ready?” he asked, giving a light push at Loki’s nod.

His fingers slid smoothly inside, the wet warmth around them making Thor’s cock jump. When he attempted to make room for a third finger, Loki winced and glared at him over his shoulder.

“You brute, be gentle,” he hissed, a dark blush spreading on his cheeks, “I-I have not lain with anyone yet.”

Thor apologized for his eagerness by peppering Loki’s neck with soft kisses, moving down his back until he reached his buttocks. He spent some time on nibbling at the smooth skin until he finally pressed his face between Loki’s thighs, tasting the wetness around his fingers.

Loki let out content little sigh, trembling a little under Thor’s caresses. "Touch me here too," he demanded, pointing his hard prick at Thor until he felt a warm mouth lay kisses on the shaft and suckle on the leaking head.

Thor’s own cock was heavy between his thighs and so hard that he had to wrap his fingers around the base to stop his seed from spilling into the pool. Loki began to move his hips, pressing himself against Thor’s face, pleading for more, more, more until Thor finally pulled his fingers out, grabbed Loki by his hips and spun him around. He moved to stand between Loki’s open thighs and together they took hold of his swollen prick and began to guide it between Loki's folds. Loki winced when the flared head slipped inside, pressing the tips of his fingers against Thor’s abdomen, forcing him to wait a moment before finally allowing him to start a gentle rhythm of thrusts.

They kissed and panted into each other’s mouths as they rutted, the pace a little imperfect and unpracticed, but what did it matter when the pleasure they took from each other was so immense. Loki wrapped his hand around his own stiff cock, stroking it from root to tip, breathing harshly as he drew closer to his peak.

Thor fucked hard and fast now, mindless with lust, pulling out to watch Loki’s hole spread wide around the engorged head of his prick, only to push back in again, feeling the warmth of Loki’s body envelope him over and over.

It was over far sooner than Thor liked, but there was little he could do to stop himself from spending when Loki began to spill all over his own stomach, clenching so sweetly around Thor’s cock. Thor thrust in as deep as he could and grunted as he felt his seed shoot out in several long bursts. He collapsed on top of Loki, burying his face into the crook of his sweat-slick neck.

“You are too heavy,” Loki gasped, pushing at Thor’s shoulders until he stood up, slipping out of Loki’s body.

They watched each other with hooded eyes, Thor’s satisfied smile mirrored on Loki’s face. Loki dipped his fingers into the pool of his own seed cooling on his stomach, about to sink back into the spring to clean himself when Thor stopped him. He moved between Loki’s thighs and spread the swollen folds of his cunt, waiting for his seed to trickle out of his well-fucked hole. When nothing happened, Thor reached in with one finger until a copious amount of his seed finally spilled out and slid down along Loki’s buttocks.

Thor’s nostrils flared as he watched Loki slide his long fingers through the leaking seed and bring them up to his lips for a taste. He was suddenly full of renewed want, ready for another round, but his lust was tempered by the familiar blue glow of Mjöllnir in the corner of his eye. Loki, too, slipped back into the pool as he sensed the approaching danger.

There was a strange stillness in the air, and from the gathering darkness emerged a tall, hulking figure, a full-grown giant, Thor realized. He pushed Loki behind his back, calling for Mjöllnir with his right hand. She flew to him in a flash of dim blue light and Thor pointed her uru-head at the stranger.

The giant was wrapped in thick black furs, only the knotty horns and red eyes visible.

“I hope I did not interrupt anything,” the cloaked figure chuckled, voice dripping with malicious mirth. She or he, Thor could not be entirely sure, turned her attention to Loki, who had managed to slip free from Thor’s protective hold. “Ah, Loki-child, you have not visited me in over two moons. I must confess I’m beginning to miss the way you skulk around in my wood,” she drawled, her accent thicker than Loki’s. The fact that she used Allspeak at all must have meant that she wanted Thor to understand whatever she had to say.

Thor did not like her ill demeanor one bit, and Mjöllnir must have agreed, for she vibrated in his grip, her battle song bleeding into Thor’s body.

“Who is this old crone, Loki, and what business does she have with you?” Thor demanded, his arrogance running unchecked despite being naked under the surface of steaming water.

The giant turned her red eyes on Thor now, narrowing them in a clear warning. “Little godlings should not sneak into Jötunheimr, not even the heir to Hliðskjalf, for days here are dark and nights darker still, filled with many nameless terrors and sly creatures full of ill will.“ Her gaze fixed briefly on Loki, who scowled at her from behind Thor’s shoulder.

Thor held Mjöllnir high and there was a small crackle of electricity between her shaft and his fingers. “You dare threaten the Son of Odin?” Thor growled, about to get out of the pool, but Loki’s hands around his waist held him back.

Loki shook his head at Thor with a warning in his eyes. “This foe is beyond you, do not make war with her,” he hissed.

Thor let out a frustrated grumble through gritted teeth as Loki waded through the water to move in front of Thor.

The giant watched them from the edge of the pool, meeting Loki’s defiant glare with an amused crinkle of her own eyes.

“Laufey-King has forbidden anyone from entering your wood, witch,” Loki finally said, unable to mask the small waver in his voice. “Be gone now, I have no business with you.”

The giant wormed out one enormous hand from the mass of fur wrapped around her. A small blue ball of seiðr appeared in the palm of her hand and she began to play with it. Thor looked at Loki, noticing a greedy glint in his red eyes as he followed the seiðr play.

“What a pity,” the giant bemoaned. “I was so very impressed with the cave you had shaped for yourself back in the valley. I almost thought you would finally be ready for… more.”

Loki looked away, jaw clenched, and Thor could see he was tempted by whatever this völva was offering.

She extinguished the orb in her hand and surprised them both by kneeling down and grabbing one of Loki’s horns, pulling him close to her shrouded face. Loki let out a horrified wail at the forbidden touch, and Thor was very close to finally allowing Mjöllnir to sing her bloody song right on the giant’s huge skull.

“When you change your mind, you know where to find me, little prince,” the woman whispered, and then she was gone, disappearing into the darkness from where she came.

Loki sank neck-deep into the water, touching his left horn where the witch had grabbed it. His whole body was shaking, and Thor finally understood how offensive his own hold on Loki’s horns earlier must have been.

“Are you alright?” Thor asked, not daring to lay a hand on Loki.

“I’m fine!” Loki snapped. He let out a long shuddering breath and waded into Thor’s arms. “I’m fine,” he repeated.

“Who was that?”

“One who brings nothing but sorrow in these lands,” was Loki’s vague answer. “Come, we must get dressed. These parts are not safe after nightfall.”

They dressed in a somewhat uncomfortable silence, avoiding each other’s gazes. Loki’s pet scurried out from between two boulders where it had hidden from the witch, climbing up Loki’s body and slipping underneath his fur vest.

“I will show you the safest route back to the mountain pass, but we must hurry, it’s a long way to go by foot.”

Thor glanced up to the night sky. The dark canvas spread above Jötunheimr twinkled with a bright dusting of stars and the air was clear of snowfall.

“I have a better idea,” Thor grinned. He pulled Loki close, wrapping his arm around his narrow waist. “Do you trust me?” he asked, but gave Loki no time to answer as he spun Mjöllnir once, twice, three times, until she lifted them up to the sky.

Loki let out a shrill cry, clinging to Thor like a startled cat, wrapping his limbs around him in a tight death-grip. Thor turned his face down and gave Loki an amused smile. “I bet you weren’t expecting that.”

Loki glared at him and sank his sharp little teeth into Thor’s shoulder, but the bite was gentle and not meant to do any real harm.

“You could have warned me,” Loki grumbled, but the upset on his face disappeared as he watched his homeland from high above the ground, seeing the shining glaciers and the vast black sea far away in the north with new eyes.

“And miss the absolute look of terror on your face? I think not,” Thor laughed, letting Mjöllnir fly them through the brisk winter air.

It had begun to snow again when they finally reached the row of mountains that had served as the border between Jötunheimr and the world of men since the Great War.

Thor made sure to land as gracefully as possible, not wanting to risk making Loki angry now that they were about to say their goodbyes. Loki pointed his finger at an opening in the mountain side, and Thor landed in front of it. He waited for Loki to unwrap his legs around his torso, then gently settled him down on the ground.

They were quiet for a long time, not meeting each other's eyes.

“I suppose this is goodbye, then,” Thor said, feeling at a loss for words. He had never been in a situation like this, for any maiden Thor had bedded had always been gone from his bed by morning. And Loki was hardly a maiden.

“Well, goodbye then,” came Loki’s response as he stared at his boots.

The bluntness of it made Thor’s chest deflate with disappointment, but he didn’t know what else they were supposed to say or do. “Oh… um. Goodbye?” He gave a little wave, but Loki refused to meet his eyes, and Thor turned around, heading towards the passage that would take him through the mountain.

“Wait,” Loki called, running after him.

Thor stopped in his tracks, eyes full of renewed hope as he spun around. He didn’t know what it was that he hoped would happen, but parting with naught but a single word didn’t sit right with him.

Loki scooped some snow from the ground, rolled it into a ball and drew a strange rune into it. He brought his hand close to his face and murmured a few whispered words into the ball of snow until it turned into solid ice, shaped like a whistle. He took Thor’s hand and pressed it into his slightly bigger palm.

“If you ever find yourself in trouble within the borders of my homeland, blow into this whistle and I will come.”

Thor slipped the tiny treasure safely into his leather bag. “Thank you, Loki. It is a mighty gift.” He tried to muster up a smile, but didn’t quite manage it, a strange tightness in his chest forcing his lips into a thin line instead.

“Do you… Do you want me to come back?” Thor asked.

“Only a fool would sneak into Jötunheimr twice,” Loki huffed, shaking his head.

“Then you are in luck, for I am a fool, you yourself told me so,” Thor grinned, and Loki soon joined him in his laughter.

“Aye, I cannot argue with that.”

Loki tugged Thor’s red cloak tighter around him, busying himself with dusting off the snow from the fur-lining around the collar until Thor cupped Loki’s chin and forced him to meet his eyes.

“I will come back, Loki,” Thor said, bending down to kiss his forehead. And then he let go, starting his long walk home through the narrow ravine between the mountains.

When he looked back, Loki was nothing more than a lonely shadow in the thickening snowfall. Thor was tempted to bring the whistle up to his lips, but he wrapped his fingers around Mjöllnir’s handle to keep them from digging into his leather bag, and he kept walking until the snow around him began to thaw and the land of men loomed ahead.

Until next time, Loki.