From a World's End there he turned away,
and yearned again to find afar
his home through shadows journeying,
and burning as an island star...
-"Song of Earendil" by JRR Tolkien
His brother's arms beach themselves over his shoulders, muscles bunching ridiculously; it’s like being set upon by an amorous bilgesnipe, or watching a hæðsvipa's fleshy feelers close in around his neck.
"What are you doing?" asks Loki. More of a protest than a question—and even he would admit that the protest itself is somewhat half-hearted.
"I said I would give you a hug," replies Thor, matter-of-factly.
Loki means to simply stand still and wait it out, he does, maybe with a disdainful huff to remind Thor of his indulgence; instead he finds his arms sneaking around his brother's torso, his hand coming to rest on the low of Thor's back.
A moment only, he tells himself; they've had a busy few days, and in any case there are no others in the room to see. Loki mentally flips a coin on what will come next: a hearty pat-pat from those big paws, or a heartfelt full-body crushing? Thor had wanted a hug. Thor has gotten a hug, against Loki's better judgment.
Except Thor doesn't move, neither away nor closer. He holds still, breathing. He holds.
They haven't been this quiet since... Loki doesn't remember the last time they've been this quiet. He hasn’t yet worked out what to do with a Thor who refuses to be goaded.
"We lost our home today," says Thor eventually. There is still something of storms and electricity in his voice, a sharpness that crackles over the quiet without breaking it. "We lost father."
You mean you lost a father, something inside Loki spits, almost a reflex. It will be there always, he thinks. But today—today he has been Loki of Asgard, whom he had previously consigned to the cold of Jötunheimr and the madness between worlds. With Odin gone, and what amounted more or less to Thor's blessing, he could have gone anywhere, disappeared completely. Stayed on a planet to which he's apparently well-suited.
And so of course, for the last, he had gone home.
It is a rather sizable ship, fortunately, but there are still too many people in a relatively confined space to his liking. What tolerance he once had, he has now lost; he is forced to tune out his surrounds in order to keep hold of the seiðr, else risk mangling the delicate work at every loud exclamation or unexpected proximity. It's the only reason he doesn't notice Thor's presence until he hears, the moment he is done, "I'd forgotten how good you are at that."
Loki affects a scowl. Instead of being frightened, the young girl whose shins are now shiny with new skin gives him a wide smile and a quick curtsy, before scampering off to her waiting mother. The woman, too, smiles gratefully at Loki, seemingly unconcerned by his disgruntled mien.
He turns to Thor. "Her sniffling was irritating me."
The big oaf beams at him. "Well, we can't have that."
They fall into step together. People bow to them as they pass, even the ones not from Asgard. Or are they, too, Asgardians now? Asgard is not a place. A part of him scoffs at the idea; Asgard certainly feels like a place when it is gleaming, secure, beyond reach and reproach, borne high by the bones of its conquests.
Well, the gold and glitter are gone now, and he is no more nor less than he had been. And neither is Thor.
He glances at his brother. Well, not quite.
"How is the eye socket?" he asks.
"Much better, since you healed it properly," says Thor. "I don't think I thanked you for that, so—thank you."
Loki nods tightly, caught between several feelings at once: incredulous at being thanked for something he'd done without thinking, confused about having performed a fairly complex feat of healing without thinking, embarrassed by the acknowledgement, mollified by the acknowledgement, irritated at Thor for stoically bearing the pain until Loki's seiðr evidently took matters into
its own Loki's hands.
"Next time you have a grave injury which is increasingly causing you pain, tell me," he grouses. Then he remembers himself. "Or tell one of your friends. Or rush into battle distracted by the agony and get yourself killed, if you like, but it's a rather embarrassing way for a King to die."
"I honestly had forgotten that you're a master in the healing arts," says Thor. "The few of our healers that still remain are stretched thin amongst all our wounded, as you well know. And I do not think any of them have the skill or strength to heal a wound inflicted by one such as Hela—I did not want them to exhaust themselves trying, when there are many others they may help instead."
"You had no compunctions about letting me do it," says Loki.
Thor gives him an odd look. "You have Mother's gift. And you're Hela’s brother, too."
Old patterns mix with new. The throne room has been converted into a large feasting-hall, because not even the destruction of their homeworld and insufficient supplies for actual feasting can break Asgardian habits. Thor can always be found there at meal-times, sitting with one group or another, making sure all of his people have the chance to speak with him. He no longer cajoles Loki into joining him. Loki does so once, to see what he would do, and Thor simply makes space for him on his wide bench. But most days Loki sits in the quiet of Thor's cabin, reading, and eventually Thor returns from his rounds of the ship and smiles to see him there. He keeps on reading while Thor sits quietly, watching the stars.
As the days and light-years crawl by, Loki finds himself restless, unable to stay still for long. He assists the healers until all the wounded are on the mend. He wanders the ship at odd hours, inspects the engines, double-checks that they're still on course for the portal that would bring them to Midgard soonest. It reminds him of trailing after Odin on one of the Allfather’s campaigns, being taught the art of logistics for both peace-time and war.
Being trained as the younger son, groomed to be second to Thor forever.
It is only, he reasons, that his best chance of survival at present is to stay with Thor. And he's already put a great deal of effort into saving these sorry remnants of Asgard, it would be a waste to have them die on him now.
If his brother notices his sporadic lapses into industriousness, he makes no mention of it. Fortunately Loki has long become inured to Heimdall's knowing looks.
He's on the storage deck, absolutely not taking inventory, when he hears footsteps coming down the hallway. Sturdy boots, a warrior's gait.
"They call you the God of Lies," says the woman who now calls herself Scrapper 142. "The Mad King. Strangely, I think most of them mean it a nice way."
"It is surprising how short people's memories are," says Loki, recalling the recent jaunt to New York and how none of Thor's admirers even blinked at his presence. He surmises that she's been speaking to the Asgardians, finding out what she'd missed in the millennia of her absence. "Though I suppose Hela’s deeds might have recast perceptions of my transgressions, in comparison.”
"If people stop being scared of what you can do, Odinson, it only makes you more dangerous." Despite her words—or because of them? there are all sorts of tales about the legendary Valkyrie—142 steps closer, peering at him keenly. "Adopted, the Grandmaster said. Yet seeing the three of you together, I would have picked Thor out as the adopted one."
"The similarities have not escaped my attention," admits Loki. "Unfortunately there is now no way to ask Father if he deliberately gave me an Aesir skin in the image of his exiled firstborn or if it was mere coincidence that I grew into this form."
"I do not think you can call yourself a god and hide behind coincidence," says 142.
Loki can read the surface easily enough: she is uneasy to be amongst her people again, yet she's found that she doesn't hate it nearly as much as she'd expected. He tilts his head. "Did you know that Thor once aspired to be a Valkyrie? He was very vocal about it; he would speak of nothing else for weeks."
Her lips quirk upwards. "He's mentioned it." And there it is, the warmth that always brightens the eyes of Thor's followers whenever they speak of him.
"Alas, it fell unto me to explain why even he, the heir to the throne, would not be admitted into the sacred band," says Loki. He tilts his head. "Have the nightmares stopped yet? Now that she's gone."
The mirth drops from her eyes, though the grin remains. "No. Have yours caught up with you?" He is sure his expression doesn't change, yet 142 nods to herself. "Bounty hunting—it's not glamorous, but I'm very good at it. And I damn well recognize the look of someone who knows they're being hunted."
They stare at one another.
She quirks an eyebrow. "Drink?"
Engrossed in his reading—his brother has yet to ask him where all the tomes are coming from, but when he gets around to it Loki will reveal the neat little emergency protocol he'd installed to secret the bulk of Asgard's ancient library into a pocket dimension, in the event of critical structural damage to the palace—Loki doesn't realize Thor has fallen asleep until he hears a loud grunt, followed by a choking sound.
"Thor," barks Loki. The King of Asgard is slumped in his chair, his head lolling to one side. The inside of Thor's cabin grows heavy, a faint breeze picking up.
Thor lets out a garbled, "No!" His right arm twitches on the chair's armrest, fingers grasping in a manner so familiar that Loki leaps to his feet, unnerved and unable to stand it.
"You're having a nightmare, brother, and our ship can ill afford you unleashing a lightning storm inside it," says Loki. "Wake up." He moves to press his hand to Thor's head.
One eye blazes white. Loki's wrist is caught in a crushing grip. He rears back, or tries to. The movement pulls Thor to his feet, though not all the way to waking.
"This may not be entirely reassuring," says Loki, "but it's me. Brother, it's me." Someone else might say, you're safe, but Thor would only think Loki has been abducted and replaced by an impostor.
The buzzing energy fades. Thor's eye returns to its normal blue, then stares at him so intently and with such profound relief, Loki finds himself unable to move. Unwilling to move. "Loki," rasps Thor.
This close, Loki can smell the storm on Thor, can feel the heat radiating off his body. His own heartbeat sounds like thunder inside his chest. His mouth waters. The restlessness under his skin transforms, turns taut in the scant space between them.
He wants, suddenly—yearns for the play of lightning on his tongue, the taste of rain and brine and heat. The strength of it surprises him.
Then, well—he doesn't see why he has to be the only one to suffer.
Thor grunts softly when Loki yanks him close. His brother's lips are still and unmoving at the first press, so Loki tries a lick, teasing. He hears a soft gasp. Then it is he who is grunting when Thor bears him backwards into the wall, pinning him there with his body.
Kissing Thor is—not as he remembers.
They'd been young when they last bedded one another, young and impatient and so, so arrogant. Greedy for everything: adulation, accomplishment, the love of their parents, everything which the universe might offer two prideful princes of Asgard. It had seemed inevitable that they'd grow greedy for each other as well.
It lasted for several seasons, and then Thor went away on a long campaign with the Warriors Three while Loki accompanied Mother to her sister's holding in Vanaheim. When they next saw each other, it was as though the fever had broken, an understanding brokered with nary a word exchanged. Loki wonders sometimes if their parents ever suspected. The both of them were neither ashamed nor regretful; relations simply returned to how they had been before. It wasn't as if either of them ever wanted for company.
One of Thor's hands is cushioning his head from the wall. Those fingers dig into his hair, pulling slightly; Loki tastes a sliver of envy from Thor at its length. That and a sudden, sharp tug pulls a moan from his throat. The sound encourages Thor; he angles Loki's head to one side so as to take his mouth more fully, kissing him wet and deep.
Loki opens easily to Thor, greedy himself, and groans at a particularly clever twist of Thor's tongue. Thor delves into his mouth as though he wishes to devour Loki whole. Loki grasps at Thor's shoulders, chest; impatient, he banishes their clothing with a thought, and the two of them gasp at the sudden slide of skin over naked skin. Not to be outdone, Thor more or less lifts him and tosses him onto the bed, following him down swiftly, as if worried Loki would try to escape. Thor is heavy on top of him, a veritable mountain, a furnace; Loki finds that he does not mind as much as he once did.
In fact, Loki cannot stop his hands from wandering; he has seen Thor naked often, even in recent years, but it has been a lifetime since he's had the license to touch. The golden skin is as warm and smooth as he remembers. Thor has always had a great deal of muscle, but the years have shaped them more closely to his frame, or perhaps it is he who has grown into them.
Aesir do not scar easily; the few faint marks he carries are nearly all Loki's handiwork. Thor notices Loki tracing the one above his hip. His eyes are dark when he says, "Worry not—you are one of the few who can get so close."
Loki cannot help glancing at the eyepatch. He pulls Thor down; perhaps keeping Thor's mouth occupied will stopper further words. From there their bodies know well what to do: the rutting of their cocks, the shine of slick on Thor's fingers, Loki’s leg slinging over Thor's hip while Thor strokes him from the inside, easing the way. Loki shudders and mutters obscenities to his brother, biting along Thor's jaw.
Finally, finally, Thor is bracing himself and pushing in. Loki, for a moment, forgets the way of breathing. The breaching of his flesh is slow, inexorable. Glorious. Loki has not done this specific act in... a while, and his body is slow to acclimatize, despite the preparation; Thor, ever attentive, has the audacity to move slower. Loki refuses to countenance such careful handling and cants his hips, pushes himself down onto Thor's cock; he moans in approval at the too-quick stretch, the burn of fullness. Above him, Thor's face looks almost pained.
There's naught to do but hiss into his ear, "Fuck me, brother."
The next thrust is less hesitant, with Thor's not inconsiderable girth skirting the edge of too much; yet Loki still kicks him lightly in the back. "I am not one of your fragile humans. How long have you been holding yourself back? Being careful not to frighten them, careful not to hurt her—"
"Heed where your words tread, brother," reproaches Thor, but oh, the next thrust has more power behind it, and the next one hits even deeper. Then Thor withdraws almost entirely and leans back, grasping Loki's leg with one arm and gripping his hip with the other, pinning him—and in one sure motion buries himself fully to the hilt.
"Yes," gasps Loki, throwing his head back. How has he forgotten this? He feels thoroughly impaled; he thinks, absurdly, that he can feel Thor’s cock at the back of his throat. "Harder, Thor. I can take it. I want it."
"Loki," groans Thor. Some remaining measure of restraint gives way, at last, and he's pounding into Loki, hips slamming into him in hard and fast fucks, driving his pleasure into Loki's body with shining, single-minded desperation.
Loki doesn't think he's imagining the crackle in the air, the tease of energy over his skin. His body feels sundered, alight. The storm builds, lightning coursing through his nerves each time Thor's cock spears him. He is honest enough with himself to admit that he likes Thor's power—when it isn’t directed at him—likes seeing his brother flexing his strength.
He reaches the crest without quite realizing it, and then the storm erupts; his body and mind go white, quiet, every nerve blazing in a rush of bliss.
Muscles spasm, tighten; his nails lengthen and sharpen enough to break Aesir skin. Thor veritably shouts, back bowing; he slams in hard, and again, and then he's gasping Loki's name as he spills deep inside Loki's body. Loki shivers at the sensation; he distantly remembers finding it objectionable, once, though he can no longer remember why.
He is surprised when Thor kisses him while they are still panting, slow and sweet. Instead of collapsing like a stone house on top of Loki, Thor leans his weight to one side; it's Loki's legs tightening around his waist which prevents him from rolling off.
"Loki?" asks Thor. His voice is hoarse, his body covered with a sheen of sweat. The gaze in his remaining eye looks a little lost, and a little like Loki is all he wants to look at.
Perhaps that is why Loki doesn't find it difficult to say, "Stay."
There is just enough bed for the both of them to lie down comfortably, their arms touching. Thor says nothing when Loki cleans them both with a wave of his hand and clads himself in sleep clothes. His Majesty, of course, chooses to remain luxuriously bare.
Eventually Loki says, "My seiðr has been different, since Mother died."
There'd been a time when Thor would groan the moment Loki or Mother started talking about magic. The present Thor, older and one-eyed, turns to him and leans in close. "How so?"
"It feels... wild, almost. At first I thought it due to grief, and rage, but now..." He closes his eyes. "When Asgard was destroyed, I sensed the reverberations through all the planes of reality, further than I've been able to follow before. The echoes continue still through Yggdrasil; I can hear them even now."
Thor frowns. "Is this different from the magic you use to travel between worlds?"
Loki sighs. "My usual mode of travel relies on finding existing weaknesses, sensing out the edges of worlds for possible paths. The seiðr that treads through the Tree herself makes up the very bones of space and time—the only way I could touch it before was through something powerful, like the Tesseract."
"Maybe the change is because of her death," says Thor. “Maybe your magic misses Mother.”
Loki opens his mouth to snap, magic is hardly sentimental, and then closes it again. He thinks. Mother had been his first teacher, had shared her seiðr with him. There'd been a connection between them; mother to son, master to apprentice. If his magic has been connected to hers, then it is perfectly plausible that her death would have some sort of effect on his magic.
"The healing," he wonders aloud. Mother had taught him healing first, and he'd been young enough that he’d mastered it as quickly as he could, to please her; it helped that he had an older brother who obliged with plenty of cuts and bruises for him to practice upon.
"Mother had held as many titles as Father," says Thor. "The Fair Guardian. The Lady of the Waters. The High Healer."
"There is a thought brewing in that head of yours," says Loki. "You might as well spit it out."
"All our lives, Father prepared me to inherit his throne," says Thor. "Is it so unthinkable that Mother would leave a legacy for you too?"
Loki understands, belatedly, where Thor's musings have taken him. His voice comes out harsher than he intends. "I am not Mother."
"No," says Thor calmly. "You are Loki. You will always be the god of mischief." And Loki recalls the words from the dirty floor of the Grandmaster's hangar.
But you can be so much more.
His mind is walking to Yggdrasil when he hears, from where his body is on the edge of sleep, "Speaking of the Tesseract--don't go losing the relics you picked up from the Vault. We may need them yet."
He sighs. "Go to sleep, Thor."
~ end ~