Thor's sixteen when Loki joins him for training. And yes, while Loki is terrible at the beginning and is regularly trounced by Sif, he picks up on skills very quickly, for all that he's only fourteen. He's always been the bright one. Soon, Loki's the best when it comes to handling knives, and the motion of his arm when he throws a dagger is strangely beautiful, as is the liquid twisting of his body in and out of various forms of martial arts. He's uncannily fast and doesn't seem to care about fairness, using his magic to appear and disappear, and while Fandral complains that it's cheating, Hogun doesn't. Magic is just another weapon, after all, and weapons are meant to be used on a battlefield. Anything that gives a fighter an advantage can and should be used with impunity.
And yet Thor finds himself oddly distracted, because even when he's sparring with someone else, his gaze keeps slipping to what Loki's doing, and with whom, and whether he's being pinned or not, whether he's hurt or enjoying himself. And when Loki's practicing with Hogun and they're evenly matched, Loki grins a mad, vicious grin that makes Thor catch his breath, that makes him seethe and burn, because he should be the one teaching Loki to relish sparring like that, should be the one tutoring his brother in the ways of victory, should be -
"Focus," says Sif, and the next thing Thor knows, he's in the dirt, staring up at her double-ended blade. His own sword has been knocked neatly from his hand, and he is - for the first time in a long time - bested.
"You have the better of me," Thor admits, raising himself on his elbows and squinting up at her.
Her mouth twists in displeasure. "No, I have the better of a witless fool that cannot stop worrying about his brother."
"I'm not worried," Thor says, because he isn't, not really; what he feels is nearer to hunger, although he doesn't quite understand it.
Sif adjusts her armor, harrumphs, and stalks off the training-field.
Thor sighs and falls back onto the ground, closing his eyes against the orange-red glare of an Asgardian afternoon, and only opens them when the sounds of clanging blades have fallen silent. Thor rolls his head to the right to see Hogun clapping Loki on the shoulder, hard enough for Loki to stagger, but Loki is smiling, and he's -
"Loki," Thor calls to him, and Hogun waves at them both as he departs. Fandral and Volstagg have already left. "Come here."
Loki sighs, sheathes the knives and walks toward him, lips curled in a disdainful moue. "I'm not your vassal, brother, for you to summon me so."
"And yet Hogun can summon you whenever he pleases?"
Loki stares at him. Then, the curling of his lips turns into something else, something slyer and darker and somehow sweeter, and he says: "I like them clever, brother. And Hogun is very, very clever."
Thor feels a spark of anger at that, his hands curling into fists. "You cannot mean - " He splutters, disbelief and a peculiar, jagged resentment hampering his speech. "You're just fourteen."
"And you were bedding people at the same age."
"Yes," Loki says, "of course you are. You're too honest to trick anyone, too simple to keep up with me the way Hogun can - be it in combat or in conversation."
Thor's brows lower. "I'm simple?"
"Oh, I must apologize, did that sound like an insult? I only meant to say you are... uncomplicated."
Loki's eyes are wide and falsely innocent, hiding a cunning that Thor cannot match, will never be able to match, and that's -
Before Loki can spout any more of his infuriatingly eloquent mockery, Thor swipes a leg out and hooks it around Loki's ankles, bringing Loki crashing down, and Thor employs everything he's learned about suppressing an opponent when he grabs Loki's wrists in one hand (those wrists are thin) and flips them over, so that Loki is pinned underneath him.
Loki doesn't even look startled. "Allow me to congratulate you on your unpredictability," Loki drawls, "in successfully overcoming me after being goaded into doing so."
"If you knew what I was going to do, why didn't you avoid it?"
"Why, indeed?" Loki's eyelashes dip, lazy and pleased, and his pale face is closer to Thor's than it's been for months. Thor finds himself spellbound by it, by the perfect, narrow symmetry of it, the cunning, mobile expressiveness of it, the glitter of those winter-green eyes. There's always been something elusive about Loki, as if he were a smooth-scaled serpent, lustrous and wily and impossible to catch. It's maddening and wonderful, for there is no other being in Asgard or in any of the Nine Worlds that frustrates Thor to such an unbelievable degree, while simultaneously making it impossible to leave him alone.
There are many things Thor wants to ask, but what he blurts is: "Has Hogun bedded you?"
"Will you kill him if he has?" Loki asks, with a casual, disinterested curiosity that suggests he finds Thor's line of questioning boring. Boring, as if -
"Tell me," Thor growls.
Thor snarls, tightening his grip on Loki's wrists, but Loki doesn't so much as wince.
"My, my," Loki says, his dark hair spread around him. It shimmers in the light, like the finest silk, and Thor blinks at it, distracted a second time. "Are you truly so thick-headed that you cannot play even this most transparent of games?"
But Loki's body abruptly goes lax, not strung with tension but looser, more sinuous, lithe and nimble and yet making no move to escape. If anything, it's in a state of boneless surrender, and Thor feels himself flushing at it, at the slight, almost imperceptible spreading of Loki's thighs, at the unspoken invitation of that soft, parted mouth. A surge of dizziness makes Thor loosen his hold, and Loki immediately frees his hands, but he doesn't use them to attack, only winds them in Thor's hair.
"This game," Loki whispers, and leans up to lick him, to lick a hot, wet stripe from Thor's throat to his mouth, a searing path that leaves Thor breathless, panting and gasping and suddenly, blindingly hard. Shock filters through him, slow and incredulous, but Loki only smiles, like he's won.
It's a sharper smile than Loki had worn with Hogun, a truer smile, for all that Loki is incapable of truth. It's a relief except for how it's not, because this is worse than Loki wanting Hogun, and what makes it worse is that Thor wants Loki back.
"You never answered my question," Thor says, and his voice is hoarser than he's ever heard it.
"Didn't I?" Loki shrugs, languid and uncaring. "Maybe I'll tell you if you win the next round."
"I will win the next round." He'll win it, all right - have Loki trapped under him again, moaning for him, begging for him -
"So you claim," Loki chuckles, tauntingly, and then he just fades away, his quiet laughter vanishing along with him, until Thor is left with nothing but air beneath him and the fading scent of fresh sweat and boy.
It seems that sparring will be more challenging from now on.