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A Wished-For Song

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You are song, a wished-for song.

Go through the ear to the center,

where the sky is, where wind,

where silent knowing.


Put seeds and cover them.

Blades will sprout

where you do your work.

-Rumi


Thor is exhausted when his head hits the pillow, and yet sleep still evades him. He has spent all day overseeing more repairs and eating a meal he could barely taste before retiring to his room. His few short months on the throne have consisted of little else, but he gets up every day and keeps going because he must.

The people of Asgard are strong and brave, and Thor has no doubt that they can rebuild what was destroyed. But while the golden realm will shine brightly again, Thor knows that there are some things that cannot truly ever be mended.

Frigga is dead, Odin's grief has pushed him into his final Odinsleep, and Loki...

Thor is still sick with guilt over leaving his brother's body on Svartalfheim. He wanted Loki to wake up somehow and tell Thor that he was kidding. That it was all a joke and he was fine, that it would not end this way.

And if Thor couldn't have that, then he wanted to carry Loki home with him and give him a proper funeral. Instead he had no choice but to bury his pain and soldier on; if he didn't, there would be no home to go back to.

Even though Loki committed so much wrong in his life, Thor still felt that he deserved a funeral. He deserved better than to be swallowed up by the dust of Svartalfheim. For whatever else Loki was, he was Thor's brother. Frigga sometimes used to say that they were two sides of the same coin, opposites but perfectly complementary.

Thor and Loki themselves never really talked about it, and Thor supposes that neither one of them really knew how. All they seemed able to do was talk past each other.

Thor remembers holding Loki close and staring into his eyes before they went blank and empty. In that moment, Thor felt like they finally truly understood each other, the horrible distance between them bridged at last. And then just like that, Loki was gone. It makes Thor's heart ache just to think of it.

The ache is familiar now, but no less difficult to bear. After all, it wasn't the first time he had to watch Loki die, knowing he was powerless to stop it.

After the first time, Thor wore vambraces etched with Loki's helmet in his brother's honor. But now, there's simply no time for such a gesture, and Thor doubts the people of Asgard would find it welcome.

He told everyone of Loki's sacrifice, but one brave deed is not enough to turn the tide of opinion, not after how thoroughly Loki sullied his good name. So Thor bears his grief for Loki in silence, the scars buried deep inside where no one can see. From time to time, Sif or one of the Warriors Three will look at Thor and just know that Loki is on his mind. And while he's grateful for their knowing looks and comforting clasps on the shoulder, he knows no one can ever truly understand just how much Loki meant to him.

This is far from the future Thor would have chosen. He would have liked time to grieve, perhaps even time away from Asgard whose crumbling buildings make him feel like he's living in a giant mausoleum. But someone has to pick up the pieces and Thor is the only one left. He can't give up and he refuses to let anyone down.

So Thor spends his days putting the realm to rights, and his nights dreaming of better times when sleep is kind enough to welcome him. He dreams of his mother's courageous heart, her soft touch, and her fondly exasperated smiles. He dreams of his father's gruff affection and the wisdom he imparted to Thor before he lost his way.

But mostly he dreams of Loki. He dreams of clever smiles, and the dark slip of a boy who was always by Thor's side throughout their childhood. He recalls secrets given and shared, dark eyelashes and cheeks flushed red with passion.

Thor lays there in the dark for an hour before he finally slips into blessed slumber. In this dream he's with Loki, stealing away to a secluded glen they used to visit when they were young men. Loki would use his magic to shield them from prying eyes and they would spend hours leisurely making love.

"Sneaking away to to ravish your own brother? This is so unlike you, Thor. So... clandestine," Loki teases once they've arrived, and there's something about the way he says it that gives Thor pause.

Before Thor can utter a word, Loki leans in and kisses Thor slowly and thoroughly. Thor is just starting to get lost in it when Loki pushes him away.

"Catch me if you can," Loki says, laughing as he runs off, his dark hair blowing wildly in the wind.

"Damn it, Loki," Thor says, laughing as he takes off after his brother. Thor wakes before he catches him.

***


In the days that follow, the dream remains a persistent thought in the back of Thor's mind, and once the seed is planted, it continues to grow.

It could simply be that Thor's subconscious mind latched onto Loki's teasing words before they left for Svartalfheim and they found their way into his dreams.

Or perhaps someone put them there.

There is a Midgardian saying Thor has heard before, that "the finest trick of the devil is to persuade you that he does not exist." Loki did always enjoy his schemes, and what a fine bit of trickery it would be to find a way to cheat even death.

But it's probably nothing. Thor is just sick with grief and latching onto anything that seems like a reprieve.

***


The sound of birdsong wakes Thor at the crack of dawn, loud and ringing in his ears. He groans in frustration as he sits up in bed. Sif had very strongly insisted that he sleep in this morning, since he seemed particularly exhausted the day before. It's just Thor's luck that some annoying pest has decided to ruin his plans.

He glances across the room and notices a black bird on the ledge of an open window, although he could have sworn that he left the window closed before going to sleep. At first he thinks it's one of Odin's ravens, but when he wipes the sleep from his eyes, he sees that it's a magpie. He ought to recognize the kind of bird, since it's one Loki often favored for shapeshifting when sent on spying missions for Odin, or for simply causing trouble around Asgard.

"What are you doing in here?" Thor grumbles as he gets up to shoo the bird away.

The bird doesn't move an inch, not even when Thor is standing right in front of it and fixing it with an angry glare. It only cocks its head to the side and stares up at him curiously.

"Out!" Thor shouts as he makes more shooing gestures. This time the bird complies, its wings spreading out like a beautiful fan as it flies away.

Thor stumbles back into bed and manages to get another couple hours of sleep. He dreams that he's trapped in a cave on some kind of quest, though he doesn't know what for. The magpie is there with him and seems to be his guide, but it's unclear whether it means to help him or lead him astray.

Thor follows it anyway, through mud and dirt, through fire that singes his hair, through thick brambles that scratch his skin. Through it all, the bird sings, its trilling voice sounding almost like laughter when he's frustrated and like encouragement when he stumbles.

And though Thor's covered in mud and scratched up by the time the dream is ending, he can also see the light at the end of the tunnel.

It seems that the magpie did lead him out after all.

***


A week later, Thor finds himself walking down the hall on his way to eat breakfast. He nods at a lone Einherjar approaching from the other side of the hall.

"My liege," the man says, and though he inclines his head, there's a surprising lack of deference in it, especially coming from a guard. Thor frowns but keeps walking down the hall. There's something about the man that seems oddly familiar, but Thor cannot quite put his finger on it.

It's not until after his meal is over that Thor remembers where he's seen the guard's face before: he's not a guard at all, at least not a real one. His face is but the amalgamation of many guards, a visage Loki created as he walked down the hallway with Thor, teasing him on their way to Svartalfheim.

Thor isn't quite sure what to feel. His emotions are a jumbled mass of hope and joy, of anger and apprehension. The clues are there and they cannot be ignored.

The dreams, the magpie, the guard... it all points to one answer: somehow, Loki still lives.

***


That evening, Thor sits alone in his chambers, sipping from a goblet of wine as he stares blankly at the roaring fire. The goblet is nearly empty when Thor feels the air in the room change, a slight edge of preternatural chill that makes him shiver. He takes a deep breath, both terrified and hopeful about what may come.

"Show yourself," Thor says.

Thor's breath hitches when Loki appears before him, his outline bathed in warm firelight. For all that Thor was hoping for Loki to reveal himself, being faced with the actual reality of it is another thing entirely.

Loki is dressed in casual wear, something similar to what he wore when he was imprisoned. His porcelain skin is smooth and unmarred, his green eyes clear and sharp, and his dark hair is thick and lustrous as it hangs loosely about his shoulders. He looks healthy, so much better than he did in his cell or even out on their journey. He looks like Loki, and Thor's throat burns with words unspoken.

He wants to throw his arms around Loki and tell him how much he loves him and how deeply he was missed. He wants to throw Loki to the ground and curse his name, to strike at him until he apologizes for the pain his lies have caused, and shake him until he's genuinely sorry.

"I should have known. You're far too cunning to die."

Loki smiles and it's a vicious little thing, all teeth and sharp as a blade. "And you're far too stubborn to just let me go."

Thor snorts and shakes his head disbelievingly at Loki. "It was you who left me clues that you still lived, and you who came to me. Free and clear at last, and yet you returned."

"But I'm not really here though, am I?" Loki says as he moves a little closer to Thor, letting the image of himself flicker to reveal that it's only an illusion.

"Then where are you?"

"I cannot say."

Thor frowns. "Cannot or will not?"

Loki gives Thor an appraising look and then a slow smile spreads across his face. "Both," he says.

"Come home," Thor says, the words spilling forth like a finely ingrained reflex. And he'll never stop saying them because Loki is right: Thor is far too stubborn to let him go. He will always yearn for Loki to come back and to find a way to make things right between them. These feelings are only compounded by the fact that Loki is now the only family Thor has left in all of the universe. Loki is cruel and capricious, but he understands Thor like no one else can.

"There's no home for me here, or anywhere."

"There is always a home for you here," Thor says, because even the sting of Loki's deceit is better than the vast emptiness of his loss.

Loki shakes his head and huffs a bit of laughter. "You honestly believe that, don't you?"

"I would not say so if I didn't. But it seems it doesn't matter if I speak in riddles or speak plainly," Thor says with bitter resignation. "Nothing satisfies you, and you always find a way to twist my words."

Loki smirks. "Satisfaction is not in my nature, Thor. Or have you forgotten that so easily?"

Thor sighs heavily, wishing the words didn't sting as badly as they do.

"Loki," Thor says, his voice soft and weary. When he stands up and reaches out for Loki, he fades away as if he were never there at all.

***


Another month goes by before Thor sees Loki again. He's hunched over his desk, looking over trade agreements with the dwarves to procure more stone needed to rebuild Asgard. Thor finds the whole task to be mind-numbingly boring, but it must be done.

"You know, you're not as bad at this as I always thought you'd be," Loki says as he suddenly appears, casually sitting on the edge of Thor's desk.

Thor's nearly jumps out of his seat in surprise, but he tries to calm himself and school his features. However, the smirk on Loki's face tells Thor that he isn't fooled at all. Thor's fingers itch to touch Loki, but he knows that he can't, lest he ruin the illusion. The silence is heavy between them, but Thor tries to ignore Loki and focus on his work, determined not to play Loki's little games.

Loki makes a displeased noise as he stares down at the document. "You're really going to pay that price for the stone? That's nothing short of robbery, charging nearly twice as much as it's worth."

Thor glares up at Loki. "Times are different now, Loki. And we need the supplies."

"The Vanir have quarries, do they not? You should threaten to buy from them instead."

"The Vanir do not have anywhere near the supply we need."

Loki grins. "Perhaps, but the dwarves don't know that."

Thor makes a noncommittal noise, but he wonders if perhaps Loki has a point. The cost really is exorbitant and there's so much of Asgard to rebuild.

Loki has always been good at this kind of thing; finding ways to manipulate and outmaneuver others is second nature to him. Thor can lead armies, but he's never had much in the way of the particular brand of ruthless pragmatism required of a king. Even though Loki has renounced Odin, he is still his father's son in ways he would not like to admit.

Loki slides off the desk and stands up, aimlessly wandering around the room and staring at Thor's belongings. It has been over two years since Loki last ventured into Thor's chambers, and Thor imagines that his ever-curious brother must be cataloging the space to see what has and hasn't changed. As Thor watches him, he thinks about all that could have been. He can still envision the golden age that Asgard might have ushered in from the union of Loki's mind and Thor's spirit.

"You could stay, you know. It could be as it always should have been."

Loki scoffs as his wandering comes to an end and he stands before Thor again. "With you as king and me as your lackey?"

"No. The two of us, ruling together."

They stare at each other, the silence between them thick with painful memories.

To the rest of the world, they were brothers only. But behind closed doors, Thor and Loki spent most of their adolescent years losing themselves in each others' touch. Their love remained a secret until they grew older and decided that the consequences would be too great if they were discovered.

Even though Thor largely kept his hands to himself from then on, that didn't mean he loved Loki any less. After their affair ended, there were always unspoken words between them, a silent yearning for something more. Thor has had other lovers since then, but none of them has ever held a candle to Loki.

He tried to love Loki only as a brother should, but sometimes they could not resist each other and Thor found himself in his brother's arms again. They would cling to each other in the aftermath of dangerous battles and quests, sharing each others' bodies in passion and reassurance that all was well, that they were both safe and whole. After Svartalfheim, Thor thought he would never have that again.

And now Loki stands before him, both here and not here. It's so like Loki, as he has always been a walking paradox. Though the whole situation is painful, there's an odd consistency in Loki's chaos; it's strangely comforting to realize that some things never change.

"Oh Thor," Loki says, and he truly does seem sad, "it can never go back to how it was. That's nothing but a pipe dream, and not even you are fool enough to believe in it."

Just like before, Thor cannot help reaching out for Loki and he feels the bitter sting of disappointment when Loki vanishes again.

***


A few weeks later, Thor is making his way back to his rooms after an evening meal with his friends, a welcome reprieve after another trying day. When Thor finally flings the door to his chambers open, he stops dead in his tracks and gasps when he sees who's standing there.

It's Frigga.

"Mother?" Thor says, his voice nearly breaking on the word.

"My son," she says with a benevolent smile. "Oh, how I have missed you."

How? How can this be? he wants to ask, but he cannot even form words over the lump in his throat. His grief has been a silent, constant companion; it's only when he's alone that its voice makes itself known. Asgardians don't have grave sites like the Midgardians do, but Thor often gazes up at the stars and thinks of her, remembering how beautiful her spirit looked before it faded away. And now here she is somehow, standing before him again.

"My brave Thor," she says fondly, her eyes filled with emotion. "You have accomplished much during these horrible times, but I worry for you. You barely eat or sleep, and you run yourself ragged. You are becoming the king I always thought you could be, but in the process of leading Asgard from darkness, you must not diminish your own light."

Thor opens his mouth, but the words still will not come. He merely stares at her, his eyes taking in every beautiful, painful detail: the rich blue of her dress, the waves of her hair, her gentle smile, and the rich sound of her voice. Thor wants to believe in it so badly, but he can't. He knows that something is off.

Her voice and mannerisms are nearly perfect but they lack the particular brand of warmth that Frigga embodied, that undefinable quality that was uniquely her.

Thor turns his face away, struggling to contain himself as heartbreak and rage bubble up inside him in equal measure.

"This is cruel, even for you, Loki," Thor says, his voice low and raw.

When Thor looks up again, the illusion of Frigga washes away until it's only Loki standing there.

"Why did you come here, Loki? To torment me?" Thor says, his body nearly shaking with anger as he fixes Loki with his hardest glare. "Or perhaps it is just simple boredom."

Loki shrugs. "Perhaps," he says, and his tone is so flippant that it only stokes Thor's ire.

"Or are you just looking for an audience. After all, what fun can be had in faking your death if there's no one there to witness it and tell you how clever you are?" Thor says coldly, and he feels edified when Loki flinches slightly at the words. After all, that's the reason why so many of Loki's schemes ultimately fail; he both wants to hide and be recognized at the same time, and his plans crumble apart in the space of impossibility between the two.

Thor continues to glare while Loki remains infuriatingly silent and impossible to read. While Thor itches to throw Mjolnir at Loki, he knows it's futile; the hammer would only go right through him.

"Well? Which is it?" Thor demands, fully expecting Loki to rage back at him. Instead Loki grows quiet and pensive, his body seeming smaller and drawn in.

"You know, she used to visit me in my cell sometimes," Loki says, and though his voice is casual, there's a cord of tension running through lines of his shoulders.

Thor pauses. "Much as you visit me now," he says, forcing himself to curb his anger as he eyes Loki curiously.

"Yes, but you're not in prison, Thor," Loki says sharply. Although Thor cannot say he truly feels free, bound to duty and tethered to the throne as he is.

Loki swallows hard and pauses for what seems like an eternity. "Do you know what the last thing I said to her was?"

"What?"

"I told her that she wasn't my mother," he says with a hollow laugh, as if it's some kind of cruel joke and Loki himself is the punchline.

Thor feels like his heart is breaking all over again as he stares at Loki, seeing through to the core of his brother's grief.

Loki thrives on change and chaos. Opportunity and potential are his greatest tools, and he wields them as skillfully as Thor does Mjolnir.

But his last conversation with Frigga is fixed and immutable. His last words to her will stand for all of eternity. They cannot be taken back, or spun and twisted into something new. How powerless Loki must feel, a trickster god who has run out of tricks.

"She knew that you loved her. She saw through your lies better than anyone else, Loki."

Perhaps some of her wisdom has been passed on to Thor, because he sees through Loki's lies now. While it's true that Loki enjoys tormenting Thor, that isn't his express purpose for coming here tonight. He came to share in his grief with Thor, the one person in all of the Nine Realms who can truly understand what he's feeling.

Anyone else would have just asked, but Loki is Loki. He would rather force Thor's grief to surface, while also wearing their mother's visage to say the things he could never say to Thor as himself.

"Brother-"

"Don't. I don't need your misplaced affection, Thor."

"It is not misplaced and you rarely understand what you need. And even when it's staring you in the face, you run from it."

Thor longs for a way to soothe his brother's restless spirit and get him to stay in one place for awhile. But Loki won't, not unless he wants to. There is nothing Thor can do to make Loki stay. He's learned that the hard way.

Satisfaction is not in my nature.

Thor doesn't know what to do now, so he settles on standing up and pulling a bottle of wine from one of his shelves.

"I would offer you a drink, but I know you cannot taste it in your current state," Thor says.

Loki chuckles. "Don't worry, I can take care of myself," Loki says, and while Thor finds that statement to be dubious at best, he doesn't say a word.

Thor pours himself a bit of wine and Loki conjures himself a goblet to mimic Thor's. He approaches Loki and raises his glass in a toast.

"To Mother," Thor says.

Loki inclines his head and doesn't meet Thor's eyes. "To Mother," he says softly, and when their goblets meet, Loki fades away into nothing.

***


It's barely three days before Loki comes back again. Thor cannot say he's surprised, as Loki was clearly affected by their last visit. He hopes it will be better this time, that their last talk made a difference.

His hopes are dashed the moment Loki opens his mouth to speak.

"Poor Thor," he mocks. "You look tired, brother. How sad that your birthright has become such a terrible burden."

Thor sighs. "What do you want, Loki?"

"That's a rather loaded question to ask me, Thor," Loki says with a little laugh.

"I have an even more loaded one if you'd prefer," Thor says sharply.

Loki chuckles. "Is that so? Well by all means, Thor, don't keep me waiting."

Thor pauses for a long moment, stroking his chin as he considers his next words. "Since I found out you still lived, I've spent much time thinking about your actions," he says. "There are many questions I could ask you, such as how you did it or when you decided pretending to die was your best option."

"It was far from my 'best option,'" Loki snaps. "My survival was not a given, Thor."

Thor stares at Loki curiously, giving himself a brief moment to file that bit of information away before continuing on. "I'm sure the answers to those questions would be quite interesting, but there's something else that truly stands out in my eyes."

Loki raises an eyebrow. "Really?"

"When you got me banished-"

"You got yourself banished," Loki spits out. "I merely created a situation in which your true colors would show."

"I know very well my own actions, Loki," Thor snaps. "You would do well to remember your own as well. I do not understand why you-"

"Oh, what a big surprise that is-"

"Let me speak, damn you!" Thor shouts as he gets to his feet, and Loki goes silent. Thor breathes a heavy sigh, forcing himself to calm down before speaking again. "What I mean to say is that you concocted that cruel plot to convince father that you were a hero. And then you faked your death to convince me of the same. Why? Why play the hero, why not just be one?"

Loki snorts and shakes his head. "It's all so simple to you, isn't it? But even after you told everyone about my 'heroic death,' did that change opinions? No, I think not."

"It will take time," Thor concedes, because he knows it will take time for even him to truly forgive Loki. "But it's not impossible."

"The deck has always been stacked against me, Thor!" Loki yells, finally losing his cool. "You're the hero. Asgard has only ever had room for one hero, and it was never going to be me."

"So you just quit before you even try? You're always testing others, Loki. But when it comes to testing yourself to do better and admit your wrongdoings, you fold."

Loki crosses his arms and glares at Thor, silently fuming.

"So what say you, Loki? Did I pass your latest test?" Thor says bitterly. "Did it please you to watch me grieve for you?"

"Yes," Loki says, but the smirk on his face doesn't quite reach his eyes.

Thor lets out a frustrated growl. "A thousand years was not enough to prove to you that I love you?"

Loki laughs, but there's no real humor in it. "Oh, that's rich. A thousand years? A thousand years of you looking down on me, and putting me in my place. You call that love," Loki sneers. "And then you had the nerve to tell me that you mourned. Like an owner mourns their pet dog I'm sure."

"Loki-"

"And what did you do when you saw that I lived? Were there heartfelt expressions of love then?" Loki says, his voice laced with bitter sarcasm. "No. If I recall correctly, you threw me from an aircraft."

"What did you want me to do, Loki? You sought to enslave an entire realm! I asked you to come home, I asked you to help me put things to rights. And I did these things because I love you. Why is that so hard to believe?"

Loki glares at Thor coldly. "That isn't love, it's duty," he says. "Like you taking the throne now because your father is too ill to manage it. Nasty habit he has, falling asleep when he's most needed."

"I didn't do it for him. I did it in Mother's honor, I did it in your honor. I did it for Asgard and because I was the only one left," Thor says, the accusation clear in his tone. Because Loki's lies and betrayal hurt, but it's his abandonment that wounds Thor the most. In the past they always came to each others' aid in times of need. They were brothers; it's just what they did.

But maybe that's why Loki has returned, why he keeps coming back to Thor and always will. It's a promise that not even he can break, a promise that he will always fulfill, even in his own twisted way.

"Ah yes, because you would have much rather returned to Midgard to be with your mortal wench."

"She's not a wench, Loki."

"How kind you are, Thor, defending her honor," Loki mocks.

"You have neither right nor cause to be jealous of Jane," Thor says. "Where were you, Loki? You let me think you were dead and then you begrudge me for seeking comfort and kindness from one who offered it freely."

"I'm not jealous," Loki says defensively. "Don't think so highly of yourself, Thor."

Thor sighs and pinches the bridge of his nose, because of course that's the part Loki latched on to. He has always craved Thor's love, even while eschewing and believing it false. He yearned for it to the point of manufacturing a hero's death for himself so that Thor would miss him all the more.

But Loki's jealousy is utterly baseless. Thor loved Loki long before Jane was even a tiny spark of a life and he will continue to love Loki long after her flame has been extinguished. What he shared with Jane was fleeting and beautiful. What he shares with Loki is eternal, and Loki's inability to see that drives Thor mad.

"Jane and I both knew it wouldn't last. She is not the reason I wanted to return to Midgard. What I wanted was simply a moment to breathe and to mourn all that I have lost. I wanted to do some good, away from these crumbling walls and the memories that haunt me."

Heavy silence descends like funeral pall as Thor watches Loki stare out into space with a faraway look in his eyes. Thor knows very well that Loki is no stranger to being haunted by memories.

Thor goes into Frigga's room from time to time, looking at her things and imagining her presence is still there somehow. He'd gone again on the day after Loki's last visit and noticed that the ornate mother of pearl comb was missing from her vanity. Thor had been angry at first, but he remembered that the comb was originally a gift from Loki, one he'd brought back for Frigga after one of his journeys with Thor. Frigga had always cherished it and worn it in her hair during many special occasions. It seemed only right that Loki be the one to keep it, and Thor could not begrudge his brother for wanting to hold on to a piece of her.

Thor shakes his head sadly. "A thousand years and still you cannot believe that I love you."

Loki opens his mouth to speak but Thor cuts him off, determined to get to the heart of the matter. "But what of now Loki? You have broken my heart and stood by and watched me struggle to mend it, which is an impossible task because I am missing the largest piece of it. You've seen it with your own two eyes. Do you believe me now?" Thor says, his throat burning with emotion as he speaks.

Loki swallows hard and looks away, but not before Thor can see the flash of painful longing in his eyes. It reminds him of the moment down in Loki's cell, when he saw through the illusion of Loki being unaffected by Frigga's death.

"Oh Loki," Thor says as he shakes his head and sighs, "how many times must you tear us both apart before you accept this?"

"I don't know," Loki says, his voice hoarse and raw with rare honesty.

When Thor reaches a hand out to touch Loki's cheek, his fingers brush across flesh, soft and solid and real.

"Loki."

Thor doesn't hesitate to throw his arms around Loki, burying his face into Loki's hair and breathing him in. Loki's arms snake around Thor's back, and he shudders out a breath as he leans into Thor's touch.

"I never should have come back," Loki hisses, but the way his fingers tremble against Thor's back gives him away. "And yet I am... I am cursed because I cannot stay away from you."

Thor doesn't release Loki, but he pulls away just enough for them to look each other in the eye.

"Cannot or will not?"

Loki's only answer is to surge forward and kiss Thor, making a broken sound when their lips finally meet. Thor loses himself in the feel of Loki's lips and the warm press of his body. He feels like he's drowning and he never wants to come up for air. While his mind has had time to accept that Loki is still alive, his body aches and burns for Loki's touch. He needs to touch and taste him and truly know that's he's real.

They lose their clothing somewhere along the way and end up naked together on Thor's bed. Thor runs his hands over every inch of Loki's sinewy body that he can reach, reveling in his brother's soft skin and the whipcord strength of his muscles.

Thor sits on the bed and pulls Loki onto his lap in a straddling position. Loki throws his arms around Thor's neck as they begin kissing again. Thor runs his hands up and down the length of Loki's back, moaning as Loki wantonly rubs the crease of his ass over Thor's cock. Loki gives an answering moan when Thor presses a finger against his tight pucker.

"Loki," Thor says, because while he desperately wants to fuck Loki, he also likes the feeling of Loki in his lap too much to get up and grab the vial of oil he keeps in his nightstand drawer.

"You never plan ahead," Loki says as he rolls his eyes. He tries to sound flippant, but his flushed face and kiss swollen lips make it clear that he's just as wrecked as Thor is.

With a brief wave, Thor's drawer opens and the vial comes flying out, right into Loki's hand. "It seems that I must do everything," Loki says.

"Not everything," Thor says, chuckling as he takes the oil from Loki's hand. Loki watches with hooded eyes as Thor slicks his fingers, before sliding them over the curve of Loki's ass to press against his tight hole. Loki sighs and arches back when the first finger slips inside. He's so hot and tight inside, and Thor aches to bury his cock there and take him over and over again. Loki squirms on Thor's lap as he adds two more fingers, fucking into Loki roughly.

"Thor," Loki says, his voice thick with lust and impatience.

Thor chuckles. "Don't worry brother, I won't keep you waiting," Thor says as he quickly slicks up his cock.

Loki lifts up enough for Thor to guide himself inside, and when he pushes into Loki's tight heat it feels like he's coming home.

"Loki," Thor moans as he buries his face into Loki's neck. They find an easy rhythm, grinding up against each other and making Thor's cock sink in so deep every time. Loki's cock is rock hard, and Thor can feel it rubbing against his stomach with every stroke.

They both laugh when Loki playfully pushes Thor back on the bed. Thor marvels at the fact that even after everything they've been through, no one can make him laugh the way Loki does.

Loki smirks down at Thor, places his hands on Thor's chest for leverage, and then starts riding him hard. Thor throws his head back and moans, clutching at Loki's hips and thrusting up into him. Loki's breath comes out in harsh pants as he picks up speed, shamelessly bouncing up and down on Thor's dick. And when Loki closes his eyes as he throws his head back and moans, Thor feels his fevered lust for Loki reach an even higher pitch.

He surges up and wraps his arms around Loki, his cock regrettably slipping out when he pushes Loki flat on his back and lays down on top of him. Loki glares at him, but all complaints disappear from his lips when Thor pushes back inside in one long stroke.

"Thor, oh fuck," Loki moans as he throws his arms around Thor neck. Thor stares down at Loki as he fucks him hard, taking in the sharp lines of his face, his wild hair and his red lips. His Loki. His mad, wicked brother whom he loves like no other.

Loki wraps his legs around Thor's hips and they both grow frantic with it, moaning and grinding against each other desperately. Loki kisses Thor like he's starving, like Thor is all he has left in the world and he knows it.

As good as it all feels, Thor can't help but remember the last time he had Loki in his arms, as he died on the barren wastes of Svartalfheim. How they'd clung to each other and Loki used his final breaths to tell Thor how sorry he was.

But how much of it was real? Thor wonders. He doesn't know if Loki truly meant what he said before about his survival not being a given. Did he truly think he was dying then, or was it all a game?

Thor wishes he could simply lose himself in pleasure, but he cannot shake the feeling of betrayal that still clings to him. Lust and anger both boil in his blood as he picks up the pace, fucking into Loki with hard, punishing thrusts.

"Did you mean it? Were you truly sorry?" Thor says, and though Loki says nothing, Thor can tell that Loki knows exactly what he's talking about.

"Were you? Were you?"

"Yes," Loki cries out as he throws his head back, his whole body trembling as he comes. It's unclear whether Loki's "yes" was a real answer to Thor's question or just the result of his climax. Thor supposes that the answer is both, as it so often is with Loki.

The clenching of Loki around him is too much for Thor to bear. He gives a few more ragged thrusts, moaning brokenly as he comes, pouring his seed deep inside Loki.

They collapse into a sweaty pile of limbs, both breathing hard and struggling to catch their breaths. Thor manages to roll off of Loki and sprawl out beside him in a sated heap.

After several moments, Loki moves to get up but Thor grabs him by the wrist. Loki gives him a dirty look but he relents, shifting his weight until he's laying on his back next to Thor.

"You know that this changes nothing, Thor."

Thor realizes that Loki is right, although not in the way he thinks. He says as much, which earns him a raised eyebrow from Loki.

"Oh this I have to hear," Loki says as he rolls over onto his side to stare at Thor.

Thor rolls over and gazes back at Loki. "Whether or not we make love has no bearing on the way I feel about you. I have loved you for centuries and I love you still. Two years at odds with each other cannot change lifetimes spent by each others' sides."

"That's not what I meant, you simpleton," Loki says.

"Then tell me, do you love me any less than you used to?"

"I hate you."

"You didn't answer my question."

Loki grows silent and refuses to meet Thor's eyes.

Thor shakes his head and smiles sadly. "Oh Loki." His brother is so gifted with words, except when they require him to be honest.

Loki rolls his eyes, but he scoots in closer to Thor and lets Thor's arms enfold him.

***


Later, when it's dark and quiet and they are both nearly asleep, Loki whispers into the silence, his voice barely audible.

"You and your stupid questions, brother. I'm here, aren't I? Is that answer enough for you?"

Thor doesn't say a word. He knows that it's far easier for Loki to say these things in the dark, where he can cling to the pretense that Thor is asleep and heard none of it.

***


When Thor wakes up in the morning, Loki is not there beside him. His stomach feels tight with a mixture of panic and disappointment before a familiar voice cuts through the silence.

"I was beginning to think you'd never wake up."

"Loki?" Thor says, sitting up in bed and wiping the sleep from his bleary eyes.

"I would have thought you'd grown tired of saying my name, as it seemed to be the only word on your lips last night," Loki says with a wicked smirk as he looks up from the sea of blueprints surrounding him, the ones that Thor left on his desk yesterday. Loki looks beautiful, all messy hair and long, graceful limbs, sprawled out on the couch and wearing nothing but one of Thor's shirts.

Thor grins. "I could say much the same of you, brother," Thor says, and it feels so good to slip into their easy banter again. No matter what happens, they can always come home to this.

Loki merely rolls his eyes, but there's a fond half-smile on his face as he turns his attention back to his work. Thor is struck by the quiet intimacy of seeing Loki like this, so comfortable inhabiting Thor's space, as if he belongs there.

"You know," Loki says as he makes a notation on one of the pages, "it will take you ages to get the east wing rebuilt if you're using these plans."

Thor snorts. "And I'm sure you have ideas on how to speed the process along."

"Don't I always?"

Thor sighs and shakes his head. "You've never been short on ideas, brother."

It seems that Loki means to stay. If he does, it will do Thor's heart good, both to have his brother back and to no longer have to shoulder the burden of rebuilding Asgard alone. Loki has the most brilliant mind of anyone Thor has ever known. Like the magpie in Thor’s dream, perhaps Loki can put his clever mind to better use and help Thor find a way out of the confusion of these dark days.

It will not be easy. Thor knows that there will be a cost and he will likely suffer for it someday. The path Loki forges will be far more complicated than Thor would like, but they will make it out together if they try. Thor can only hope that in helping him find the light at the end of the tunnel, Loki will also find some light for himself.

Thor still doesn't trust Loki, and he knows he would be a fool to do so. He cannot claim to always know Loki's mind or his motives, as not even Loki is always aware of what they are. But if he cannot trust Loki wholly, then he will content himself to trust in certain parts of him.

He trusts Loki's rage and his grief. He trusts Loki's undying love for him, even though it's a love that Loki constantly struggles to accept and navigate, for all that it is the greatest driving force of his life.

Thor remembers the way they were together on their journey to Svartalfheim, the hope of reconciliation even amongst all the anger and bitterness. Thor is still wary, but he carries that hope inside him again, burning in his chest like a phoenix rising from the ashes.

Perhaps that is simply the way of it between the two of them, small victories that are won and lost and then won again.

"I take it you're staying then?" Thor asks, because he still needs to know for sure.

Loki shrugs, but there's a bit of a smile on his face, a real smile. "For a time."

"Good," Thor says, and he means it. For all the terrible things Loki has done and likely will do, Thor cannot bear life without him. He can be nothing but grateful for the fact that now he doesn't have to.