If Thor is sure of one thing, it’s that he doesn’t want to be a prince.
“You are a prince, darling,” his mother tells him when he complains about this. This is usually accompanied by something else—her wrestling him into his evening’s finest, her combing back his unruly hair, her wetting her thumb and trying to rub dirt off of his nose.
“Why can’t I be something else?” Thor asks, instead.
“All right,” Frigga smiles, half-exasperated and half-amused. She sits on his bed, his tunic in her hands. Thor, for his part, has a pair of pants on, the slippers he wears in his chambers, and is slashing through the air with nothing in his hands. “What would you like to be instead, then?”
“A dragon!” Thor exclaims. He slashes through the air. “Or a great warrior. A Valkyrie! Could I be a Valkyrie, mother?”
“I suppose you could try,” Frigga says, watching her son closely, mouth twitching. “You would have to work very hard.”
Thor lets out something like a very little gasp, slashes through the air again, and then turns to his mother, face beaming.
“I could do that!” he exclaims. “I would work very, very hard.”
“And what would you do?” Frigga asks and gestures to her son to come toward her. “As a Valkyrie?”
Reluctantly, with what is undoubtedly a heavy heart, he shuffles toward her.
“Why, I would protect Asgard,” Thor says emphatically.
“Raise your arms,” Frigga says.
Thor glowers and grumbles, but does as he’s told. He loves his mother very dearly and he will do most things for her, including getting dressed when he does not want to be.
“Thank you, sweetling,” Frigga says and helps slide the tunic on over Thor’s little golden head. “And who are you protecting Asgard from?”
“The frost giants!” Thor shouts. He bears his teeth, very menacingly, and Frigga outright laughs at that.
Thor, with all of the very serious gravity of a nine year old, or whatever the Asgardian equivalent of nine years old is, puts a small hand on Frigga’s shoulder.
“Mother,” he says, solemnly. “I will protect you and I will protect Asgard from Jotunheim. I will not let the frost giants come past me.”
Frigga smiles and reaches forward to smooth silky golden hair over her son’s head. She presses a kiss to the top of it.
“I am sure you will be a great warrior one day,” Frigga says. “But for now, you know what you must do?”
“What?” Thor asks. He makes a face because he knows he won’t like it—whatever it is.
“You must be a good little prince,” Frigga says and Thor groans out loud. “We have a very important dinner with Jotunheim and they must not know your grand plans to save us from them. Can you do this for me, Thor? Will you be good?”
Thor grumbles, twists under his mother’s hands, but eventually lets her fix him—brush his hair, wrestle him into his favorite bright blue surcoat, and fasten a dark red cloak to his shoulders. She steps back, satisfied with her efforts, and Thor has to try his hardest not to rebel immediately, cast off his clothes and go running through the hallways naked.
It would not be the first time the little prince has done that and, frankly, it will not be the last.
“I will be good,” Thor says, sullenly.
“There’s my good boy,” Frigga says and kisses his forehead again. “Come, my little warrior. The night is young and we have many frost giants to meet.”
Frankly, it is all a lot less exciting than Thor imagined it might be. He thinks at the very least the Jotun will come to court gnashing their teeths, flexing their claws, and grunting unintelligibly. He imagines they will bring severed heads to throw at Odin’s feet and that Thor will then need to pick up his sword and declare the Jotun enemies—he will fight them to defend Asgard’s honor.
They do not do this.
Instead, there is a small contingent of them, each Jotun much larger than the last, with blue skin and dark braided hair, wearing furs that are much too hot on Asgard, weapons all tucked away. There is one that is bigger and uglier than the rest who is surely the king, but that is not who catches Thor’s eyes. Yes, there are a dozen tall, ugly, terrifying Jotun that are five times the size of Thor, but then, behind all of them all, is one that is very very blue and very very small.
Thor does not know who the small frost giant is and no one bothers to introduce them or explain it to him. So he is left, instead, to his own imagination and a host of very unsatisfying explanations, like—the Jotun is a servant boy for the king, or he is a very large Jotun who made a witch angry and she cursed him to shrink, or he is actually quite old but he has bewitched his face to look younger, or he is not a Jotun at all, but a Skrull, and only Thor has noticed at all.
With no explanation forthcoming, Thor watches the little Jotun curiously throughout the day and it does not escape his attention—the way he fidgets whenever he is made to sit still, or the way he looks around him, with large eyes that are startlingly green and an expression that is startlingly shrewd. He notices the way the little Jotun bites his lips when he’s frowning at the king and the way he plays with his hair when the adults are talking and his green eyes are glazing over. The way he does magic when he thinks no one is looking.
Thor catches this once when he is similarly bored, sitting at the long table, to the side of his father, watching the adults blather on about treaties and resources and other words that make Thor’s eyes roll into the back of his head out of boredom.
The little Jotun is sitting to the side of the king’s—Laufey, his father calls him—oldest son, some ugly frost giant by the name of Hellbindi. No one is paying attention to the little one anyway, so he wrinkles his nose and stares closely at the goblet of cool fruit juice in front of him. Thor leans forward to see the little Jotun mutter something under his breath. Before his eyes, Thor watches the goblet levitate off the table.
Thor sucks in his breath, looks covertly around the table to see if anyone else noticed.
No one else has.
Everyone else is still droning on about scarcity and strategic outposts and more treaties.
The goblet sets back down, almost gently, and the little Jotun looks very, very pleased with himself. He leans back in his chair and then, before Thor can stop staring, he looks over at him.
A thrill runs through Thor’s stomach at the eye contact. He thinks he’s going to get caught out for blatantly watching, but, instead, the little frost giant grins at him and then—he winks.
Thor feels all flustered and giddy all over.
He leans back in his chair and spends the rest of the meeting watching to see if the Jotun does anymore magic.
He doesn’t, but he does shoot Thor looks every once in a while. It feels like they’re in on a secret and this delights Thor. Frost giants are his mortal enemy, of course, but he loves secrets and he loves being in on them.
He is nine years old, after all.
When the meeting ends, everyone gets up, the adults grumbling, shaking hands, patting their bellies, and wondering when the feast will be. Thor is kinda hungry, but he doesn’t care about all of that. He gets up from his chair, stretches, and looks around for the little Jotun.
He’s nowhere to be found. He isn’t with the contingent at all. He just—he’s disappeared. Just like that. Poof!
Disappointment tugs at Thor’s stomach.
Then something else tugs at his elbow.
“Hello,” a small voice says behind him.
Thor turns around quickly and there, right behind him, is the small frost giant.
“Oh,” Thor says and tries not to look pleased. He fails, really. “Hi.”
“Were you looking for me?” the frost giant asks.
“No,” Thor says quickly. When the Jotun raises an eyebrow, Thor scrunches up his face. Then he lets out a breath and his shoulders slump. “Yes.”
“Oh,” the little Jotun says and then a smile slips across his face, slight and sneaky. “I was looking for you too.”
“Really?” Thor asks eagerly and the frost giant’s smile widens. Thor likes it. He likes—well, more about the little Jotun than he thought he would. He’s in trousers, with furs at his shoulders, and no real shirt underneath. His hair is dark and wavy, with lazy curls that reach the top of his shoulders. At his forehead, two small horns curve up. Thor tries not to stare, but he doesn’t try very hard. He’s never really seen a frost giant up close, even though they’re his mortal enemies.
“Yes,” the frost giant says. “Everyone else is boring. I’m bored. Are you bored?”
“I am very bored,” Thor confirms.
The little frost giant looks around the room then and Thor does the same. The kings are conversing with one another, Frigga is talking to some ambassador, and generally speaking, the whole Asgardian and Jotun contingents seem to be paying attention to, well, not them.
“What do you do for fun?” the little Jotun asks. “In Asgard?”
“Oh, so much,” Thor says. “Do you like trees?”
“I suppose,” the little Jotun says, eyeing Thor with confusion.
“We have a great many,” Thor says. He leans forward, conspiratorially. “And they are very fun to climb.”
The Jotun tilts his head just so and it makes something warm and happy bubble in Thor’s belly.
“I am very good at climbing,” the frost giant says. “I bet I am a better climber than you.”
“No,” Thor says out loud, a little in horror. “You could never be.”
“Well then, let us find out,” his new friend says and sticks out his hand.
Thor thinks he’s meant to take it to shake, but, being nine years old, he’s not so good at formalities. So, instead, he takes the little Jotun’s hand and, before he can protest, tugs him along and out of the Great Hall.
They look around them wildly, hearts pounding, and then run down the hallway.
By the time they end up in Idunn’s Orchard, they’re laughing and clutching each other.
“I’m Loki,” the little frost giant—Loki, says.
“I’m Thor,” Thor grins.
“Show me the best tree to climb, Thor,” Loki says with that smile—the little, mischievous one that makes Thor a little fuzzy around the edges.
“If we go to the one at the end, the second branch hangs over the river,” Thor says. “We could jump in. Unless you are afraid.”
“I am afraid of nothing,” Loki hisses, bearing his teeth and that makes Thor smile too.
“Me too,” Thor says. “I’m afraid of nothing.”
Loki looks at Thor dubiously, but Thor just holds out his hand again. The little Jotun makes a face, but takes Thor’s hand anyway. There’s something that runs between them, a little spark, like an electric shock. Thor feels it reverberate through his chest, from the tips of his fingers to the tips of his toes. He gasps.
Loki giggles and it’s in the reflection in his green eyes that Thor sees that his hair is sticking up every which way. Thor lets go of Loki and Loki dissolves into giggles.
Thor makes a face, tries to bare his teeth too, but then gives up. Instead, he shakes his head, takes Loki’s hand again, and this time, drags him all the way to the end of the trees.
“Are they still your sworn enemy?” Frigga asks him later that night as she helps him in the bath.
“Yes, very much,” Thor says, spluttering through warm water, soap running into his eyes.
But he thinks—maybe not all of them. He still remembers the sun glinting off small, curved horns and the smile Loki gave him after he emerged from under the river water, laughing, eyes sparkling, hair sticking to his neck and shoulders.
He remembers this for a long time.
The Jotun delegation come back once every few years.
Every time they do, Thor finds him, the little Jotun with the green eyes and the cool hands and the mischievous smile.
They always stay very still and very serious through the state meetings but then, the first chance they get, they slip out of the room, Thor offering his hand, Loki taking it, and the both of them running through the palace to play.
He spends centuries like this, attending affairs of the state, some here, some there, some against his will, and some, certain ones, with a certain young frost giant, making some of the best memories he will ever have.
Centuries pass and the young prince of Asgard grows.
Thor is not unaware of his position or the affect that time has on him. He grows older and people start to look at him differently, strangely—the servants around the palace, the envoys sent from other kingdoms, the women and even some of the men down in the village, on other realms, wherever and whenever he attends to affairs with Odin.
Thor is no longer a child and that is becoming apparent by the day. His voice deepens and he grows taller, thicker in the chest, his arms built with muscle he gains as he trains in the yards with the swordsmaster and the Warriors Three. His hair grows longer, a golden mane that makes Odin’s mouth twitch because Odin, once, his mother tells him, was a great beauty himself.
Thor makes a face, but his mother simply smiles, takes his face between her hands and presses a kiss to his cheek.
“You are, my sweetling,” Frigga says. “A great beauty.”
“I would much rather be a great warrior,” Thor grumbles during these times. In his opinion, there is always far too much politics and far too little warring involved in being royal.
“You can be both,” Frigga says, amused, and then swats at his shoulder. “Now go. You mustn’t make your father wait.”
A fortnight on Jotunheim, Thor thinks, a little glumly. A land of ice and rock and little else besides.
There is only one thing that Thor could possibly look forward to at the prospect of going to such a place and he does not know how or where to find him. Loki comes always with the Jotun envoy, but the Jotuns have not come for many a year. Perhaps his old friend has forgotten him altogether, Thor thinks sadly.
Anyway, it is unclear to him where Loki might even be in an entire realm. When he comes to Asgard, he comes as part of the Jotun contingent, but that is comprised of many individuals. The only one ever named by King Laufey is the Prince Hellbindi. Who Loki is to them, Thor has never thought to ask, which he only realizes now was stupid of him.
But, perhaps he will be there anyway, Thor thinks, as his mother attaches his cloak to his shoulders—large now, so much larger than they once were. Perhaps he will recognize Thor, despite the years, marvel at how much he has grown since last they saw one another.
Perhaps he will give Thor that same smile, turned up at the corners, mischief sparking in his bright green eyes.
Jotunheim is a cold, desolate landscape, but somehow breathtakingly beautiful, in its own way. Thor stands with the Asgardian contingent on the ice bridge, in front of the enormous ice doors guarding the palace of ice and stone. Everything on this realm is cold blues and bright whites, a frozen beauty that sinks into Thor’s blood and lingers there.
He’s surprised to find that he does not mind.
He is an Asgardian, made of blood and fire, but the cold suits him too. His bright, red wool cloak is thick, his tunic and underthings thicker. His long hair is pulled back and his ears, when he glimpses his reflection in an ice crystal, are bright pink. He presses a finger to his cheek and what he feels is cool skin against cool skin. He likes it, he thinks. The cold makes everything feel more alive.
“Three days,” Odin tells him as the Jotun envoy comes to meet them and lead them into the palace. “We will discuss the terms of the treaty, we will exchange gifts, we will plan for the future, we will feast, we will pretend to be merry, and then we will leave.”
“Will we look around Jotunheim, father?” Thor asks, eyes scraping the ice spires, the mountains in the distance. The sky here is deep blues and purples.
“No,” Odin says, derisively. “There is nothing to see here.”
The tips of mountains seem to glow in pink.
Thor is not sure he agrees.
All diplomatic visits remain as dull for Thor in his teenage years as they were for him as a child. The problem is that now he cannot run off with his friend or fail to pay attention to what is being said at the table. Sometimes, the party will look to Odin for the answer and Odin will look to him. Sometimes, everyone will look to him to begin with. Often, people are simply looking at him. Thor smiles and bears it with grace he does not feel.
He is restless.
He hates being at the table, feels the frustration building under his skin.
“What say you, Thor?” Odin asks, startling Thor from his thoughts.
The table of diplomats, noblemen, and royal Aesir and Jotun look at him, waiting for his pronouncement.
“I think that is...a reasonable idea,” Thor says carefully.
He does not know what he has agreed to, to be sure.
“Then it is settled,” Odin says, approvingly. “We shall toast to it and so it shall be.”
“So it shall be,” Laufey says from the other side of the long table.
Jotunheim’s King is as ugly as Thor remembers him to be, with blood red eyes, sharp, severe horns protruding from his head, and a blue skin tone that looks more like bruises than what Thor remembers Loki’s to have been. He wears a crown on his head, gold about his neck, and furs about his shoulders. There are markings all over Laufey—sweeping lines of dark, black ink and ridges built into his skin. Thor does not know what they mean exactly, but he knows what they mean symbolically—this is the King; there is no mistaking that.
Laufey raises his goblet and so does Odin, mirroring the gesture. Thor raises his too and the rest of the table follows.
Laufey is about to say something when the door behind them opens and someone scurries in.
“Sorry,” this person mutters, perhaps a little harried. “My apologies, my studies ran over and—”
“Sit down, boy!” Laufey barks.
The person inclines his head slightly to Laufey and then quickly takes the open seat two chairs down from Hellbindi. He reaches for the goblet and graciously ignores the look of pure spite sent his way by the Prince and half the Jotun contingent besides.
“To a fruitful and stable alliance,” Odin says.
“To a fruitful and stable alliance,” Laufey repeats.
Each of them murmurs the phrase and brings the goblet to their mouths to seal a promise with wine.
Thor barely tastes the drink on his tongue. He’s too busy looking at the new Jotun. It has been years and he has grown, to be sue, but not that much. Loki’s horns are larger than they were and he, too, is a little broader in the chest. His dark hair curls down past the top of his shoulders and he has gold in his ears too, ink crawling across his skin, although certainly not so much as Laufey or Hellbindi. His mouth is still the same, though. His eyes are still the same.
It only takes a minute of Thor yearning for it for Loki to catch his eyes.
When he does, it’s not with any sort of surprise.
If anything, it’s with a kind of pleasure that has the wine tasting even sweeter on Thor’s tongue. He takes another mouthful and, this time, he finishes it with a warm, excited smile.
He is so much smaller than all of the other Jotun that Thor would feel bad if he wasn’t so enchanted by how Loki is an inch or two smaller than himself. They are both growing muscles, but Thor is growing faster, that much is certain. It does not matter to him. He puts a hand on Loki’s shoulder and it sits on top perfectly, his palm fitting the curve there comfortably.
“You have grown since last I saw you, old friend,” Thor says. He tries to keep the excitement from his voice, but he is almost certain he does not manage to.
“Well you did not expect me to stay a child forever, did you?” Loki asks.
They stand in the hallway outside the War Hall. Outside, through open archways, the cool Jotunheim breeze floats in past the arches, skims the top their shoulders and stirs their hair. Inside, Odin and Laufey stay behind to talk, and all around them, elsewhere, the Aesir and the Jotun parties find places to go and other ways in which to occupy themselves.
“No,” Thor says. “Nor did I expect you to grow, I suppose.”
“Am I caught in your memory, ever just the same?” Loki asks. A dark curl flutters with the wind and Thor catches it, tucks it back behind Loki’s ear.
“You would be much sweeter if you were,” Thor says wryly and that makes Loki laugh, bright and delighted. It’s a sound that ripples across Thor’s skin, setting off little sparks along its path.
“We are no longer children,” Loki says, his laugh settling into a smile.
It is not a smile that Thor remembers, but it’s an enchanting one nonetheless; it has all of the teasing warmth of the Loki he knew and something a little calmer, a little older. They’re teenagers, but they have centuries to their names anyway. The Aesir and the Jotun cannot afford to stay young for too long.
“Nor are we...well, whatever they are,” Thor says, jerking his head toward the War Hall and that makes Loki grin.
“What, you do not wish to be Kings Odin and Laufey?” he asks.
“I do not wish to throw my life to sitting in a room, creating and mending treaties and abstract legal concepts I know not and care for even less,” Thor says. It is perhaps too truthful for such a reunion, but Loki does not seem to mind.
“In that case, let us leave the politicking to their royal highnesses. It is my turn to show you, old friend,” Loki says. He offers Thor his hand and Thor takes it without hesitation. It’s not the same hand he remembers—it’s larger, slightly wider, although the fingers remain delicate and the same. Thor laces their fingers together and thinks about how solid the pressure feels against his palms.
“Show me what?” Thor asks in wonder.
“Jotunheim,” Loki says.
They wind their way through the Jotun palace, Thor following Loki, who weaves them between corridors and up and down staircases known only to those who think to look for them. Thor tries not to marvel at everything he sees, but he’s a poor actor, by all accounts. His eyes grow large, taking in the magic around him—walls made of sheets of white ice, spires of crystals, sweeping staircases cold to the touch. The hallways are lit with blue flames that Loki shows him are ice cold, and the entire structure of the palace is cast in a white-blue glow. It would be eerie if it weren’t so beautiful.
Around them, the frost giants loom, lurching through the hallways, towering above Thor and certainly towering above Loki. They seem too busy to pay attention to two wandering teenagers, but Thor’s heart catches in his throat each time, a little wary, and a lot on edge. He remembers his promise to his mother when he was younger. Asgard and Jotunheim might be at peace for now, but that was not always the case and, Thor is certain, will not always be the case. He will not be caught unawares in the heart of the enemy.
Anyway, that all fleets soon enough from his mind when Loki pulls him up the last set of stairs. He pushes open the door in front of him and leads Thor outside onto what must be the roof of one of the highest spires in the palace. It’s bitterly cold up here, the wind cutting through Thor’s wools, but Loki doesn’t flinch. If anything, he seems to glow the colder it gets, his blue skin lighting up bright in the freezing icescape.
That is what Loki is showing him, anyway. Thor steps out onto the roof and all around him, this is what he sees: beautiful, behemoth crystalline ice structures, vast, mountains stretching as far as the eyes can see, frozen, rivers of ice in between, and trees that flower not green leaves, but what looks like small crystals themselves. It’s a landscape of greys and blues and whites and purples and it would feel disconsolate were it not so devastatingly beautiful.
“Oh,” Thor says and he feels it beating like a second heart in his chest. “This is Jotunheim?”
“Yes,” Loki says, coming to stand next to him on the railing of stone. “My home.”
“It is beautiful, Loki,” Thor says and means it.
“It is dying,” Loki says. “Or thriving, I suppose. It’s really all a matter of perspective.”
Thor gives him a sidelong look and sees Loki lean against the stone, his soft mouth curved into a smile. He loves this place; Thor can feel it rolling off of him.
“What was it like, growing up here?” Thor asks and finds himself genuinely curious.
Loki leans his forearms against a railing of cold steel and Thor follows to do the same.
“Cold,” Loki says, after a moment. He waves at the icescape vaguely. “Not because of this. Jotun are not the...warmest, nor the kindest of beings.”
Thor frowns at that, although it’s not as though he hadn’t known, or at least suspected.
“Your family?” Thor asks. “What about them?”
Loki gives Thor a thin smile. It feels terribly brittle, not at all like his friend.
“They tolerate me,” he says. “Sometimes. Because they must. Not out of any...desire to.”
Thor’s frown deepens. He doesn’t know Loki’s family, but this does not endear them to him. The friend he knows is bright, funny, witty, and charming. He is one of the most curious and the most intriguing people Thor has ever met, even though he is a frost giant.
“I prefer using my mind to brute strength,” Loki says, smiling at Thor’s displeasure. “Storytelling to going to war. I suppose I cannot blame them. What is the point of poetry when all they know is bloodshed and ice?”
Thor wants to rest his chin on Loki’s shoulder, ask him what stories and poems he has to tell. Loki’s family might not listen, but Thor will. His strength is not always in words, but he appreciates when someone else’s is. He knows, somehow, that he would listen to Loki for hours, if he let him.
“I did not know you liked poetry,” Thor says instead. “What else don’t I know?”
Loki grins at that and flips, so his back is to the mountains. His elbow nudges against Thor’s and Thor is very, very careful not to move his own.
“Most things, I would imagine, little princeling,” Loki says.
“Hey!” Thor protests and that makes Loki laugh, which makes Thor grin, perhaps a little goofily.
“About me, I mean,” Loki says. “And I do not know much about you, not anymore. Do you still wish to be a Valkyrie and run barefoot through the palace grounds?”
That makes Thor’s expression soften into a smile. He looks at his hands, pleased that Loki remembers this—their shared memories, their youth.
“I’m afraid being a Valkyrie is beyond my means now,” Thor says. “But there is nothing quite like running barefoot through grass on a summer’s day.”
“I would not know,” Loki says. “It might be summer here now, in fact. We have one season and that is blue.”
“I like blue,” Thor says and he isn’t even self conscious about it. He reaches forward, tugs a stray curl from Loki’s head. “Will you ever come back? Luckily, neither of us are children any longer, so I can show you more than just the orchard and the river behind the palace.”
“What would you show me?” Loki asks.
Thor tips his head back, watching the black and purple sky swirling above them.
“Everything,” he answers, honestly. “I would show you the village, just beyond Idunn’s Orchard, where the Warriors Three and I go to drink or to watch the villagers celebrate holidays, when we wish to. Or the forest, just beyond the river, where there is wildlife you could not imagine—brightly colored, of all shapes and all sizes, making sounds your ears could not believe to be true. There is a bird there that is iridescent, Loki, whose feathers shine all of the colors of the rainbow when it rains and sometimes when the sun dips behind the clouds. I would take you to the end of the river, where there is a cliff that overlooks the ocean, and when the sun sets, there are dolphins and all manners of sealife that crest to watch. The sky turns all manners of colors before deepening and—sometimes, when you sit there, all you can feel is that it is like the end of the world and that perhaps, the world is beautiful.”
Loki, who has been watching Thor this entire time, is mostly unreadable, but Thor thinks that isn’t all there is to it. His eyes don’t leave Thor as he speaks and when Thor finishes, he looks both enthralled and sad.
“You would show me all that, Thor?” he asks.
“Yes,” Thor says, eagerly. “And more.”
That makes Loki laugh and that sound, too, is sad. Thor doesn’t know what could be causing his friend such grief, but it lodges in his chest, making him carry the weight of unhappiness as well.
“You love Asgard,” Loki says, after a moment.
“Yes,” Thor says. “And you love Jotunheim.”
After a moment, Loki nods.
“What would you do for it?” Thor finds himself asking, unable to look away. “What would you do for Jotunheim?”
Loki is quiet for a moment. The breeze stirs his hair and Thor itches to reach over again, to find his fingers in the dark black and tuck it behind Loki’s ear.
“Almost anything,” Loki says. He turns to look at Thor. “What about you, Thor? What would you do for Asgard?”
What would Thor do for Asgard? Become a prince, worthy of being a king? Let go of his dreams? Be a noble warrior or be something else—something less? Loving a place like Asgard means sacrificing everything else, everything you might want, just for the chance of her love.
Warriors have torn their hearts out and given them to Asgard to turn to gold. Valkyries have lost their lives just for a hint of Asgard’s beauty.
In the end, one thing is true. It is more than a love; it is a home.
“Carve out my heart and lay it at her feet,” Thor says. His chest beats heavily with love. It’s all a little overdramatic.
“And you think that will be worth it?” Loki asks, amused. “You think Asgard wants your bleeding heart?”
Thor shrugs. He leans over the edge of steel, sees the ground fall away far below.
“I will give her what she asks,” Thor says. “Whether it will be worth it—I suppose we will see.”
He doesn’t know if that’s the answer Loki is looking for. He doesn’t know if Loki is looking for an answer at all.
“Tell me about your dreams, Prince of Asgard,” Loki says, instead.
Thor looks at what he has and what he wants and finds that he can’t quite muster an answer. Dreams are for other people, not for princes. It makes Thor sullen.
“I would rather hear about yours,” Thor says instead.
He expects no answer, but what he gets is—something else. Winding, beautiful, vibrant dreams, hopes he can barely understand. Loki is all ambition, raw and unfettered desires that he would break his skin just to see. He talks and Thor listens. It is poetry, in a way. He speaks and it is soft as lyrics. He turns and Thor is pressed close against his side.
When Loki falters mid-story to look into Thor’s eyes, bright green meeting deep blue, Thor shrugs, with a smile.
“I am not used to the cold,” he says.
Loki’s mouth curves up in a half smile and oh—there it is again, that tumble in Thor’s chest.
“You will have to try better than that,” Loki says.
Thor isn’t sure what he means; not then. He will think about it later though—the way Loki looks at him, the words he’s said, the way his fingers brush against Thor’s on the ledge.
For now, Thor watches him closely, his heart drumming in his chest—a rat-a-tat-a-tat-tat.
“Let’s make a promise,” Thor says, abruptly.
Loki tilts his head and his horns shift with him. Thor watches them, the glint of moonlight against their curves.
“What kind?” Loki asks.
“That we will always find one another,” Thor says. “No matter what. We will find our way back, no matter what it takes.”
“That seems a lot to promise someone,” Loki says, but his voice is light, barely making an indentation on the wind.
“You are not just someone,” Thor says. His hand finds its way to Loki’s hair despite himself. He tugs on it with a smile. “I have known you since we were children.”
Loki snorts at that, but it’s a soft thing, carried away by the moment between them.
“I suppose that is true,” he says. “You have certainly been annoying me since then.”
Thor smiles—no; he grins.
“I promise,” Loki says, softly. “I will always find my way back to you, Thor.”
Thor doesn’t realize then that it is not so much of a promise as an—oath. Something binding. Something to break his heart on, again and again.
If he thinks about it later, long after they’ve left Jotunheim, long after all that lingers of Loki is Thor’s memory, tracing the very shape of him—well he thinks maybe it’s some kind of a dream, instead. What that dream is, he couldn’t say. A hope, for himself, maybe.
The centuries grow older and so, too, does Thor. He is no longer a sunny, beautiful princeling, but something more than that—golden and strong, beautiful, and unmistakably royal. He grows even taller, his shoulders broad, his arms and back thick with muscle. He can throw an axe the length of a yard with one hand tied behind his back and drink a room of Asgardians under the table. He leads his men into battle and find glory somewhere in between blood and liberation. His hair is golden, down past his shoulders, his face covered in golden scruff, his eyes the blue of a clear, sunny Asgardian day. When he speaks, his voice resonates with humor, the deep authority born of a prince. He is the very vision of a king, a lion in royal clothing.
It does not escape him and it does not escape anyone eyeing him, fighting for just a bite of the future king.
Thor enjoys his youth and vitality to its full extent. He embraces both war and drink with the same, hot-blooded vigor, and this makes him all the more attractive, even more sought after. His blood quickens at his prospects and he spends years tumbling into beds with women and not a few men. His taste is not picky and his appetite is vast. He is everything Asgard has made him—arrogant, entitled, strong, unstoppable. He is his father’s son and that is apparent.
But while Odin is who Thor aspires to, it is Frigga who understands him best. Because for all Thor is an Odinson, he is also shaped by his mother’s hands, her patience, her virtues—her endless capacity to love.
Thor has spent years sowing his seeds, but what he has truly desired remains elusive.
“Will you never settle?” Frigga asks him, sitting at his side and weaving braids into his long, golden hair.
It is not settling that eludes Thor, but someone worth settling with.
“What about the Lady Sif?” his mother asks. She shifts a handful of hair and starts to braid on the other side of his head.
The Lady Sif is accomplished, deadly, brilliant, and beautiful. Thor has great affection for her.
She does not capture his heart the way he wishes for, though. He would not look upon her the way Odin sometimes watches Frigga, in the quietest of his moments, when he has let the mantle of King drop for a breath and thinks no one is watching.
“You will never know responsibility until you take a partner,” Odin says instead, harsh and mean.
“I will take no one,” Thor growls back, slamming his goblet onto the long table. The wine spills over, splashing the dark wood, seeping in where wine and ale has spilled and seeped for hundreds of years.
“You will do what we tell you,” Odin glares back with his solitary eye. “Or you will forfeit your throne.”
Thor had tipped over his goblet in anger and stormed out of the dining hall, furious, bristling, and thoroughly trapped. He had never wanted to be king at all, but it is still not the kind of threat he takes well to. He has nothing else to his name, after all, no real hope or dream, just the half-remembered, fleeting desire to be a warrior, great and noble. Now all he is suited for is to take a throne and hope he does not burn his home to the ground with it.
Frigga finds him later, smooths his hair back and kisses his forehead.
“Is there really no one?” she asks her son. “Someone to ease the ache of my son’s heart?”
In all of the realms, in all of his tumblings, Thor has never found a one to hold his attention. No one has ever come close to capturing his heart or his imagination. He wants more than quickly pulsing blood and heady lust. He wants someone to speak with, late into the night, someone who will challenge him, someone who will make him want to become a better person, a greater king. Thor wants something he knows he will never find, with anyone.
“You must marry, sweetling,” Frigga says, cupping his face. “Your father grows old and Asgard needs a king. What would you do for Asgard?”
It is a jarring moment, a disconnect between time and Thor’s reality. Like a dream, Thor remembers something, words from long ago. A flash of blue, a stir in his chest, something promised, something given.
Where is his old friend now, he wonders?
“Carve out my heart and lay it at her feet,” Thor says, as through a fog.
Frigga looks at him sadly then.
“I believe that is what your father is asking for,” she says.
She kisses his forehead and moves away, leaving Thor to ponder the crown on his head and the ache in his heart.
It moves quickly, against his wishes, too fast for him to understand what is occurring or to really lodge a protest one way or another.
He takes the Warriors Three on a campaign to Nidavellir to avoid the reality of his situation and when they return, victorious, as it were, most of the preparations are nearly done.
“The Jotun will be here within two fortnights,” Odin grunts over a mug of ale. He sits on his favorite chair, in front of the fireplace in his waiting chambers, the fire flickering bright reds and yellows behind him.
“You have chosen a Jotun for me,” Thor says, nearly reeling in disgust. “A frost giant. You would have me bed the enemy.”
“I have chosen who is right for Asgard!” Odin barks, his eye flashing dangerously. “You are no longer a child, boy. Do not act so naive. This will cement our alliance.”
“They are no allies of ours,” Thor seethes. “They are monsters who will renege on their empty promises the moment they get the chance.”
“Why do you think you are marrying one of theirs?” Odin glares. “Do you find me to be a dullard? You will marry who I have chosen and you will do it for the good of Asgard.”
“I will not,” Thor growls, his blood boiling hot, anger licking up his veins.
“Do not test me,” Odin says, voice low. “If you humiliate Asgard, you will be sorry indeed.”
There is not two ways with Odin; when he sets his mind to something, there is no moving him. Thor knows it will be this way—Asgard, or him. And Odin will always pick Asgard.
“He is only doing this because he loves you,” Frigga says.
Servants come in with his fineries, arm upon arm of surcoats and vests, robes of lush velvet and tunics of silk, golden ribbons, crests sewn onto expensive cloth, clothing in all manners of color. It makes this real, in a way it had not been before. Thor’s stomach twists at the thought, his wedding to someone he does not know, and loves even less.
“He has never loved anyone but himself,” Thor says out of spite and then, immediately regrets it. He turns to his mouth, frames her small face between his large hands. “And you, mother. His only true loves.”
“It was not always that way,” Frigga laughs. She smooths Thor’s collar and something sparks at his throat, a flicker of seidr. “We grew to love one another. And you may too, Thor. You will love your Jotun bride.”
“I will resent her my entire life,” Thor says out loud, angrily, and Frigga looks sad at that.
“I hope not, sweetling,” she says and kisses Thor’s cheek. “I would not want that for you, nor your bride. Now come, let us pick out what gifts to send to Jotunheim.”
Thor does not care what gifts they send Jotunheim. He does not care for the preparations, a flurry of energetic activity and thrill about the palace. Odin sends out announcements to all corners of the realm—Thor, son of Odin, son of Frigga, Prince of Asgard, to wed.
Thor retreats into his chambers, into his training, into drinking with the Warriors Three and tumbling who he finds to tumble. He is rather aggressive about it, barely found on the palace grounds and certainly nowhere near his wedding preparations.
It does not help him, nor does it soothe the panic in his chest, but it is a distraction.
It is all a welcome, necessary distraction—until the Jotun come.
The day of his wedding dawns bright and clear, the sky an endless sea of blue, the grass and trees bright green as far as the eyes can see. The warmth in the air is soothed by a breeze so temperate, it slides across his skin as though a comfort. It is as though all of Asgard is celebrating this occasion except for him.
Thor sits in his chambers, sullen, angry, and powerless. He has rowed with Odin countless times and even Frigga, but like a current against a boulder, nothing has changed. It is still his wedding day. He is still to wed a perfect stranger.
He thinks maybe he should have sought the Lady Sif when he had the chance. He wishes his heart had given him reason to do so.
Is this better? Thor thinks. Is this not worse?
“Oh it can’t be that bad,” Fandral says.
They’re in Thor’s bedchamber as the servants ready him, braiding gold and flowers into his hair. He has on white trousers and a loose, gold tunic. His wedding clothes lay on his bed, a deep blue velvet, threaded with gold and heavy, clear gems, a collar turned up at his neck. There’s a long, rich cape of red velvet, his favorite color. He’s tried it all on once and found himself pleasing to the eyes. All wasted on a Jotun brute.
“Think about this—who was that childhood friend you had?” Fandral asks. Now he’s draped across Thor’s couch, already in his fineries, peeling an orange. “You know. That blue fellow you never stopped talking about.”
Thor’s cheeks burn and he grumbles as he tries not to run a hand through his hair.
“Loki,” Thor says.
“Aye, him,” Fandral says and pops a slice into his mouth. “Whatever happened to him?”
“I don’t know,” Thor says, eyeing his reflection with a frown. “I have not seen him for centuries.”
He thinks about him often, his old friend. He remembers him vividly—the blue of his skin, the bright green of his eyes. The way he crafted his words with care and purpose, as though he only said things he meant, and what he meant was always intriguing to Thor. Loki had made him laugh. He had made him do things he never would have done otherwise, think and dream things he never would have reached for. Loki had made so many years of his life bearable, just with his presence, whenever he appeared.
Thor is not in the habit of missing people, but he misses his Jotun friend now, acutely.
He wonders who he was, why he was at the court, and what could have happened to him. He was small for a frost giant, Thor thinks, with worry. He was too small to be anything in that cold, desolate, beautiful place.
“Well perhaps this one will remind you of him, yeah?” Fandral grins and barks out a laugh. “Surely she will not be hideous and if she is, just close your eyes before you do the deed.”
Thor takes a hairbrush and launches it at his best friend. It bounces off Fandral’s head and he yelps and falls off the couch.
The ceremony is to take place in the evening, on the grounds of his mother’s rose garden; a place of sanctity and magic. Much like Idunn’s Orchard never withers, so never does Frigga’s roses. She keeps them alive, fed through her seidr, and they bloom for her throughout the year, in every imaginable color, responding to her love with like kind.
The garden is decorated for the occasion, strung with festoons of gold and silver and bright lanterns hanging mid-air. Not only roses, but flowers of all names and colors bloom around them—spots of reds and blues, purples, pinks, oranges, yellows gleaming brightly. As the night darkens, the lanterns are lit and it glows, all of it.
There is an altar of dark ebony with pewter embellishments at the front, where Frigga will perform the ceremony. The altar, too, is lit, glowing and shimmering in the yard as though the illusion of a faerie dream. It is soft and romantic, like a sigh. It tries to catch Thor’s heart and fails. He looks around and grows—well, grumpier. There is no other word for it.
“I know this is not what you wanted, but it is what Asgard asks of you,” Odin says quietly.
Thor is in his chambers and Odin offers him a glass of clear liquor.
For once, the old man seems soft and nostalgic—kind, even.
“I would do anything for Asgard,” Thor says, listlessly. “But this is almost too much to bear. Call it off, father. I beg you.”
“We need this peace, Thor,” Odin says. He puts a hand to Thor’s shoulder and Thor is surprised to find his father looking—old. Weary. He does not look like the iron fist who rules the Nine Realms.
“Father?” Thor asks, gently.
“I am growing older, son,” Odin says quietly. “I may not look it, but I feel it. I grow older and our enemies grow stronger. I would not ask this of you if I did not think we needed it.”
That makes Thor feel—unmoored. He wants anything but this. But this confession, this moment of pure truth and raw vulnerability from a man who has been nothing but strength for all of Thor’s life—well, that knocks him sideways.
“I will do what I can,” Thor swallows thickly. “As best I can.”
“I have never known my son to fail,” Odin says with a smile and it leaves something behind in Thor like a sweet, terrible ache.
It is just as well that Thor does not know his bride, he thinks.
The Jotun enter the court, blue clothed in reds and whites and darker blues, dark fur at their shoulders, gold and silver glittering in the moonlight—in their hair, on their fingers, wrapped across their long necks—and they look like wolves in sheeps clothing. Thor can see the crown sat upon Laufey’s ugly, regal head. Around him, all of the frost giants grin, teeth white, all ugly and mean to Thor’s eyes.
He cannot see his bride among them.
Thor finds he does not care.
He turns back to the altar.
An Asgardian wedding is such:
There is the moon binding, there is the blood tying, and there is the soul bonding. Once they are bound, by realm, blood, and soul, they will kiss, once, and vow themselves to their kingdoms and to one another. Then they will be bound in marriage, forevermore.
It is a deep, intense, beautiful ceremony.
It will be a sham, Thor thinks.
He will be married in name and dead in all other ways.
Better to get it over with, Thor thinks, and looks up at the bright, rising moon.
The Jotun party delivers his bride just before the altar. She is covered from head to toe, shielded from Thor’s view through bright green cloth, woven through with heavy golden thread and gems that catch in the moonlight. The veil covers his bride’s face, drapes so far down her front that all Thor can see are two hands, adorned in gold jewelry, folded neatly in front of her. Her feet, also ringed with bangles of interlocking golden links and dotted with bright red and green jewels, peek out from under more embroidered cloth. She takes a step forward, away from Laufey and Hellbindi, and then takes another. Her steps are sure in a way Thor thinks his would not be. She is smaller than he imagined, not even up to the shoulders of the King and Prince. That, at least, fills Thor with relief. A frost giant will be difficult enough to be wed to without height lending her more advantage.
The moonlight cuts between them, Thor looking down at his bride and his bride finally looking up at him. They are illuminated, both of them, but Thor does not feel any more enlightened. He clenches his teeth, his jaw ticking near the back.
“So you are my betrothed,” Thor says, quietly, as the ceremony settles around them. “I do not even know your name.”
If he expects her to say something, he remains disappointed. She is quiet and the breeze drifts between them, the sounds of the night magnified by how desperately Thor wants to be anywhere but here.
“We will now begin the moon binding,” Frigga says softly, behind them.
“We do not have to do this,” Thor says quietly, almost desperately. He looks at the top of her head and sees nothing but rich, green cloth. “If you but say the word—we can end this charade. We can reclaim our lives.”
The please is left unsaid.
Still, she says nothing.
“You cannot want this,” Thor tries again. “This cannot be either of our wishes.”
He wants to grasp her shoulders, shake her into saying something, but the silence remains undisturbed.
Odin brings the mirrored dish before them. Time has run out.
Thor closes his eyes, his throat aching, his chest tight with resignation, and does what he’s told.
The moon binding is an ancient ritual—both Asgardian and Jotun, surprisingly.
Thor takes the mirrored dish and stands next to his betrothed. He grasps one handle and his Jotun bride takes the other. Moonlight pools in the middle of the mirrored surface, catching the light and reflecting it back up at the two of them.
“We begin the binding,” Frigga says, softly. “Will you take the moon’s light and allow it to bind you, from this life through all the lives to follow?”
For a second, Thor does not answer. Then, feeling Odin’s presence at his back and the weight of Asgard on his shoulders, he says, “Yes. I will take the moon’s favor.”
“And how long will you be bound?” Frigga asks, her voice as light as the wind. “And who will bind you?”
It feels as though a stone is pressing onto his chest.
“An eternity,” Thor says, distantly. “We will be bound for eternity.”
An eternity feels like a vise around Thor’s heart, stealing breath from his lungs.
Trapped is what he feels. Caught in a snare of Asgard’s own making.
The wind whistles against his ears. It is only when Thor feels himself swaying on his feet, that he feels a small hand to his elbow. And then, surprisingly, a soft, low voice next to him.
“The Moon mother,” his bride says. “She binds us to one another, I to him and him to me.”
This scrambles something in Thor’s brain, words stumbling in his surprise and confusion.
“I to...him,” Thor says, hesitating. Frigga smiles. “And...him to me.”
Frigga gestures to the dish in front of them.
“Take Her favor and drink.”
Thor looks at his mother in confusion, but his bride-groom does not seem surprised. They take the dish and lift it up and Thor, in surprise, sees something silver gathered at the bottom.
The Jotun tips the bowl against Thor’s mouth and Thor, confused and caught off guard, drinks. The taste is sweet and cool against his tongue, like a chill winter’s ale or starlight against the roof of his mouth. He startles at the sensation, glowing within him. Then, remembering himself, he does the same to his Jotun, lifting the bowl so that they can drink.
His bride lifts their veil, just slightly, so Thor can see the curve of a mouth as they drink from the same place Thor drank from. He watches the shape, a dark smudge, painted in a red that tints gold.
“So you are bound,” Frigga says. The Jotun lets the veil go and a ripple like relief moves through both parties. “So it shall be.”
They are partly bound now, Thor thinks, blindly, staring at his betrothed in confusion. Still, under the veil, he can see nothing.
“We are bound by the three,” Frigga says, taking the moonlit dish from Thor and setting it aside. “Realm, blood, and soul. By the two realms these two are brought together and by blood they will be tied. Thor.”
Thor looks at his mother and she gives him such a warm look, he offers his hand despite his hesitation.
“Not to me, my darling,” Frigga says, so Thor, his pulse in his throat, turns to his betrothed.
He offers his own hand, wide and rough. The Jotun takes it, one hand cupping Thor’s and Thor is struck by how cool their skin in, how smooth where Thor’s is callused, how dark where Thor’s is pale. The Jotun’s hand is small, their fingers long and delicate. Thor stares at the gold there, gold paint inked into their skin, vines and leaves and clusters of white-gold stars peeking out from under the veil as they touch Thor’s hand. There are rings lining the fingers too and Thor has the impulse to take one between his own fingers, slide the loop up and down where it rests.
Nails painted black frame Thor’s hand, which rests on top of his bride’s cool and dry palm. With their other hand, the Jotun presses the nail of their index finger to the middle of Thor’s palm. They mutter the breath of a word and a bright white light glows under their nail. They cut across Thor’s palm and Thor takes in a breath with a surprised hiss. Blood bubbles up where he’s been cut, but there’s no pain, simply something like a sharp pinch and a cooling sensation left lingering behind.
Thor watches as the Jotun guides his hand over a bowl of pewter sitting atop the altar. Liquid silver gathers at the bottom of this bowl too and it’s above this that the Jotun turns Thor’s hand. His blood drips down into it, one, two, three full drops. The red slides across the silver and then sinks down beneath. The Jotun then raises Thor’s palm under their veil and, Thor’s heart beating rapidly, he feels the press of mouth and the quick swipe of a cool tongue across his cut.
Thor barely has time to process this before his bride gives him his hand back and offers their hand in return. Thor takes the smaller hand in his own, marvelling at the way it fits so neatly against Thor’s larger palm. He does not know seidr, so he takes a small knife tucked into his wedding clothes and presses the sharp tip to the top of the Jotun’s blue palm. He draws it across and the blood that bubbles up is, unsurprisingly, a dark blue. Thor guides the Jotun’s hand over the bowl and lets the blood slide across, dripping on top of the silver, one, two, three full drops. It, too, sinks smoothly beneath.
Then, breath a little shaky, he brings the hand to his mouth. He looks into the veil and sees nothing, although he does feel the way the air between them seems to still a little, his bride barely moving. Thor moves his mouth against the cut, licks the blue blood with his tongue. It tastes metallic, of iron and gold, cold to the touch and even colder to swallow. The Jotun takes their hand back, but the two of them don’t move away from one another. Thor traces the shape of them with his eyes, fingers itching to push back the veil and see who is underneath.
“Moon bound and blood tied,” Frigga’s voice cuts through Thor’s thoughts. “So it shall be.”
Thor feels a little lightheaded, standing at the edge of this life and his new one. His betrothed’s hand finds its way into his and Thor is confused enough to allow it. He’s surprised to feel them give his hand the faintest of squeezes and he’s even more surprised to feel comforted by it.
“All that is left is for two souls to look upon each other,” Frigga says in front of them. “Now, look at one another and take each other for what you find. Only then will the Fates grant their blessings, my loves.”
The Jotun tilts their head up and Thor can almost see something then, the tilt of a strong jaw underneath, something undefinable and defiant hidden just underneath green and gold cloth.
“Well?” the voice comes again and Thor is surprised to find it almost amused. “Will you not look upon your bride?”
There’s something familiar here that Thor can’t quite place. His hands shake, more uncertain than anything he’s used to in his life, and he takes the bottom of the cloth, heavy gems and rich gold thread catching on the calluses on his fingers, and carefully lifts it up, up and over a face shaped like a heart. He rests the cloth carefully on top of two horns with delicate gold chains wrapped around the base, the rest of the veil falling gracefully down the Jotun’s back.
It takes a moment for Thor to return his attention to that face; and then another for it to catch up with him.
He stutters—his breath halting in his chest, his eyes widening, his movement slowing. He sees one thing and thinks another. He reaches forward, disbelieving, and then stops.
It can’t be.
He’s as Thor remembers; the same small, curved horns, darker than the rest of skin the color of the ocean, where cool water meets the warm, a mouth lined with dark red and gold, curving up at the corners, bright green eyes Thor has dreamt about before understanding what they were or who they belonged to.
“Loki,” Thor breathes and then, to his horror, his vision blurs. “It can’t be you.”
The tinkle of a laugh he remembers, like a dream.
“Why not, little princeling?” Loki says, smiling wider. It tilts up into the rest of his expression, the laughter reaching his eyes. Thor reaches forward again, cups his face on impulse. His skin is cold and warm under his palm, just the way he remembers.
“I have not seen you in so long,” Thor says thickly. “I thought you a dream.”
“You always were terrible with dreams,” Loki laughs again and Thor feels—Norns, he feels it, that subtle shift in his chest; that click he has been waiting for. He is overwhelmed with it, caught off guard. “Did I not promise you?”
“What?” Thor blinks, reeling from this—from the weight of this moment, from the feeling sweeping through his body. He touches Loki’s jaw, he touches his hair.
“You oaf,” Loki says. “You absolute fool.”
Thor knows there is a whole world watching them, but he could not care less. He feels it in his chest—his heart beating rapidly, a rhythm he can barely stand, a thump-a-thump-thump. It all slots together, every part of him that has been missing for so long.
“I promised you,” Loki says. “I would find my way back to you.”
Thor’s hand slips across his jaw, slides to the back of Loki’s neck and caresses him there, as though to hold him in place. Everywhere around Loki, the air jingles under the music of the jewelry he’s wearing, of the pounds of gold, at his throat, at his wrists, on his arms, hanging from his ears. There is a gold loop at his nose and a gold chain that hangs down in a half circle, running from his nose ring back to a cuff at the top of his ear.
“I thought you had forgotten,” Thor admits.
“I was always meant for you,” Loki says.
This sweeps through him too. His knees feel embarrassingly weak.
Thor would kiss him there, but the air between them warms—it shimmers with silver and gold.
“Give me your hands,” Frigga says.
Heart thumping, disbelieving smile on his face, Thor takes Loki’s hand and Loki takes his and together, they offer Frigga their arms.
“Once the souls have been joined, there is no untying this union,” Frigga says. Her smile, slight and soft before, is wider now, pleased. “If you have reason to wish this undone, speak now or let the Fates decide.”
“Well?” Loki puffs out a quiet laugh beside him. “Say the word and we can—what was it? Reclaim our lives. A single word.”
Thor watches Loki intently and touches a thumb to Loki’s wrist. He feels his pulse speed up under his fingertip. He says nothing.
“Then we will proceed,” Frigga says. “With the soul bonding.”
Frigga speaks words to power and the pewter bowl takes on a shine, beginning as a glow and growing brighter and brighter, until Thor has to squint against a green so bright it nearly hurts his eyes. The air around them shimmers in green and gold and when Thor turns to look at Loki, he finds him glowing as well.
Loki gives him a smile, not quite so mischievous nor so secretive, but something almost happy. Thor shifts closer and Loki’s veil grazes his shoulder, the jewels heavy as they sit between them.
Frigga’s incantation grows faster, the seidr in the air growing thicker, almost heavier, sinking into their skin, weighing down their hair, the bones at their brows. Thor can feel it sweep up through him, from the ground, wrapping around his legs, slinking around his torso, a snake coiling about him and in him and, next to him, tighter and tighter around Loki until he lets out a faint gasp.
“Take a thread and press it to the other,” Frigga instructs.
Loki is the one who reaches forward first, scoops his thumb through the thick, green and silver liquid. Thor follows him, does the same. Then they turn to each other and Loki, with a smile, leans forward and smears the liquid across Thor’s lip. This, too, is cold to the touch, although it nearly sparks at his mouth. Thor presses his wet thumb to Loki’s lips and the green glows bright across.
“Come,” Frigga says and they offer her their wrists again.
Frigga continues her incantation and as she does so, that same snake coils around them both again, although this time it’s visible and it shines bright as it crosses their wrists and arms, binding them tightly together.
Thor tries to move his arm and finds that he can’t. He is pressed to Loki and Loki to him. They are tied together, the both of them. His heart is in his throat. A thrill bursts at the base of his spine.
“Will you, Thor, Prince of Asgard, bind yourself to this union, to Jotunheim and its prince?” Frigga asks.
It’s only then that it makes sense to Thor; it dawns on him rapidly, and he thinks how stupid he must have been. Of course, Loki had been a prince all this time as well.
“I bind myself,” Thor says, looking not at Frigga, but at Loki. “To Asgard, to Jotunheim and its prince.”
“And you, Loki,” Frigga says. “Will you, Loki, Prince of Jotunheim, bind yourself to this union, to Asgard and its prince?”
Thor’s heart quickens.
“I bind myself,” Loki grins. “To Jotunheim, to Asgard and its prince.”
“Then may the Fates bless you,” Frigga says and the tie between them burns brightly, once, pulses blindingly, and then sinks, cold and burning, into their bones. “In union, in eternity.”
Thor takes in a breath and it’s heavy, chilling his lungs.
“In union, in eternity,” everyone around them murmurs.
When the light fades, Thor and Loki are looking at one another and no one else.
They are married, by law and by Fate. And by both, Thor cannot believe it.
Loki’s face shines with it too—disbelief, hope, and something like pure, sweet happiness.
Thor’s heart skips, his face beaming, and he hesitates not a second before cupping the back of Loki’s head and pulling him in for their first kiss.
The wedding festivities go on the entire night, although it feels like days by Thor’s estimation. Time moves rapidly and stands still all the same. There are lights everywhere, music, tables set up in the Great Hall and outside, laden with food, ale and wine flowing freely. Thor can see the Warriors Three hoarding much of all, two women in Fandral’s lap, and he can see the Lady Sif, stiff in the corner until someone—a Valkyrie with dark skin—taps her on the shoulder.
Thor turns away, his attention ever on the person beside him.
“Did you know?” Thor asks, leaning forward, mouth brushing Loki’s ear. His words are for him and him alone, but it is loud enough that Thor has to raise his voice.
“Are you hurt?” Loki asks. He turns his head slightly and the moonlight catches on his gold chains, on the jewels at his throat, at his nose, dotted along the shell of his ear.
“No,” Thor says. He drinks Loki in hungrily, his stomach twisting with feeling. “I wish I had known.”
“Why?” Loki asks.
“I would not have been so irate at my father, then,” Thor gives Loki a wry grin. That makes Loki laugh. Even among this—all of the noise and revelry, it’s a sound that cuts through, nestles somewhere deep in Thor’s chest.
“Perhaps he deserved it,” Loki says.
“Perhaps,” Thor says. He can’t help it, he moves closer, his mouth ghosting along Loki’s jaw. “Perhaps I deserved to know I had nothing to fear.”
Loki keeps his shiver under control, but they’re so close that Thor can nearly feel it anyway.
“You might still,” Loki says. “I am a frost giant, after all. Your foresworn enemy.”
“You are not my enemy, Loki,” Thor says. This time he presses a longer kiss to Loki’s jaw. “You are my husband.”
Loki looks pleased, despite himself.
They watch the celebration in their honor, from their thrones at the front of the garden, and when Hellbindi calls Loki to the center to dance for Thor, Thor cannot look away.
He refuses all attempts at a traditional farewell at the end of the night, sending Hellbindi off into his cups rather than having him and the Warriors Three accompany the two of them to their marriage chamber.
“They will wonder if we did not consummate our marriage,” Loki says to him, amused.
“They will have no need to worry about that,” Thor says lowly into his ear and he can feel Loki’s breath come up short.
Loki does not let Thor carry him, but he does allow him to lace their fingers together.
Thor leads him through Asgard’s halls, the walls dappled with moonlight, the warm breeze drifting in through the open archways. He hears Loki’s every step, every jingle of his bracelets, every chime of the little bells around his angles.
It takes everything in him not to press him against one of the walls, although he does stop them, just once, in the quiet of a courtyard to pull Loki to him and to kiss him deeply in the peaceful silence. Loki lets him, his hand going to the braids at Thor’s hair and tracing them as they kiss, their hearts beating wildly between them.
The wedding bedchamber is larger than Thor’s and has been set up to celebrate not one, but two princes. There are two guards at the door who nod to them as they move inside.
As they cross the threshold, Loki lets go of Thor’s hand. Thor lets out a noise of protestation, but Loki simply presses a finger to Thor’s mouth before moving back.
Around them, the room is adorned with golds and reds, lush velvet curtains drawn closed and rose petals littering the ground and the bed. There is a table with pitchers of wine and ale and a platter of sweets and fruits to nourish themselves as they see fit.
Loki pours a goblet of wine out and comes back to Thor, pressing the cup up to his mouth.
Thor looks down at the burnished gold and, not breaking eye contact with Loki, drinks down all of it. Loki sets the goblet aside and reaches up, delicate hands at Thor’s face, framing him as he leans forward and takes from him a kiss that rolls through Thor like a wave. He opens his mouth and Loki presses in, licking up every drop of wine. When he moves away, his green eyes are hazy and Thor’s breathing comes out harsher, his own head fuzzy.
Loki leaves him then and crosses to the bed, where he sits at the edge.
He doesn’t need to gesture to Thor for Thor to come to him.
He kneels at Loki’s feet instead, takes Loki’s hands and starts at the fingertips, kissing each one and then pressing kisses into his palms.
He looks up, his chest tight with feeling, and Loki looks down at him, his hand reaching out into Thor’s hair. Thor closes his eyes and he can feel Loki moving through it gently, untying the ribbons at the bottom and then slowly, achingly slowly, unbraiding Thor’s hair, one braid at a time, until gold gleams in waves over Thor’s shoulders as well.
“I have wanted you,” Loki says quietly. “Since we were children.”
It moves through Thor like molasses, slowly, or like a single bolt of lightning, a shock of knowledge.
“You have me,” Thor says, thickly. “You might have always had me.”
That makes Loki laugh. Thor would swallow the smile on his face if he could.
“Can I—?” Thor asks and Loki moves back into the bed farther.
“Undress me,” Loki instructs, so Thor climbs up onto the bed, hovering over his husband.
Thor peels back layers of gold that night.
He reaches forward, grasps the green, gold-adorned veil where it rests on top of Loki’s horns and lifts it up, lets it slide off him, slithering back onto the bed with the soft noise of cloth on cloth. Loki looks up at him, his breathing coming out more shallowly, his heart beating so quickly Thor can feel it even from where he hovers. Thor looks at him better then—his old friend, his beloved, with gold ink in his blue skin and eyes rimmed in black kohl. He brushes his fingertips against the gold chain between Loki’s horns and Loki lets out a soft hiss, like it’s been punched out of his gut.
Thor unwinds the chain and that, too, falls to the bed beside him.
He works his way through, slowly, with gentle, almost reverent touches. He takes the cuff from Loki’s ear and removes the gold ring from his nose. He lifts his necklaces up and over his head, jewel after jewel clinking together in the quiet air, rustling together on the bed. Thor relieves Loki of his gold cuffs at his wrists, of each of his gold bangles. He kisses the palm of his hands again, where more black and gold ink into his skin and then moves up to kiss his neck. Loki sighs softly, his hand at Thor’s hair, his back arched up into Thor’s touch.
“You are not done,” Loki admonishes and Thor laughs into his throat.
He moves down, undoing the green teardrop jewels at Loki’s ears and then, one by one, sliding each gold ring off each slender finger.
Once free, Loki leads Thor’s hands to his back and Thor does this too—leans his weight against him and, one by one, unbuttons and unzips Loki from his ornate wedding gown. It’s a tunic, really, sheer in material, but gilded, like the rest of him. It slides away from Loki too, and what’s left is his bare chest, blue and lovely, and his trousers.
This is when Loki stops Thor.
“My turn,” he grins. “Only fair, my husband.”
The word makes Thor heady, but he sits back on his heels as Loki moves forward, everything behind him jingling and crinkling on the bed with his movement. He first unclasps Thor’s red cape from his shoulders. As it slides to the ground with a heavy thump, Thor feels as though a weight has been lifted from his shoulders, literally and metaphorically.
He is married, he thinks. He has married the person he has loved, for all his life.
Next, Loki unbuttons the back of Thor’s velvet vest and that, too, they cast aside. Thor is left in loose, silk trousers and a tunic. Loki takes the tunic by the bottom and Thor lifts his arms so that he can lift it up and over his head.
Loki casts the cloth to the ground and then it is just the two of them, mostly unclothed, on their knees on the large bed, surrounded by cloth and gold and jewels.
Loki runs a hand over Thor’s chest and his hand is so soft and so cool that Thor sucks in a breath in surprise. He stops at Thor’s nipple and presses a thumb against it, making Thor hiss, goose flesh raising violently along his arms.
“Loki,” Thor says, but his voice is almost too wrecked to be admonishment.
Loki laughs again and then presses his mouth to Thor’s collarbone.
Thor’s eyes nearly roll into the back of his head, so Loki leaves little kisses and marks there and moved up his throat and jaw slowly, methodically, driving Thor out of his mind and skin.
Thor is clutching Loki’s sides, his nails digging in, and he only realizes this might hurt when Loki falters, his mouth at the hollow under Thor’s ear.
Thor tried to let go, but Loki stops him.
“No,” Loki says. “I like that.”
So Thor does it again and Loki pants against Thor’s neck in pleasure.
“Let me,” Thor says.
He cups Loki’s neck with a large hand, runs his thumb in circles at the base until Loki is shivering into his touch. Thor catches his mouth in a kiss and slowly maneuvers him back, farther up on the bed. He blindly sweeps the area, Loki’s wedding clothes and jewelry going skittering loudly across the floor.
Thor doesn’t care. He’s drowning in this feeling, of having Loki’s skin bare under his hands, of Loki’s sharp, sweet scent filling his nose, of the feeling of Loki, hard and nearly squirming against him.
Thor eases Loki down onto his back and Loki clutches at his shoulders as Thor kisses him, slowly and thoroughly, taking time and care to bring Loki so increasingly out of his mind with need that he begins to rut up into Thor.
That’s when Thor, running a hand down Loki’s chest, slips it under the waistband of his trousers. He takes in a shaky breath and closes his hand around Loki.
It doesn’t take too long. They’re both so overwhelmed and sensitive, it’s barely a few strokes and Thor biting down onto Loki’s lips before Loki’s panting Thor’s name into his mouth, tensing under him, and coming.
Thor lets Loki bury his face into his neck and breathe in for a few minutes, limbs trembling as he comes back from his high. Then, when Loki feels he has regained control of his sense, he rolls them over, hovering over Thor now.
His eyes glitter green, bright and full of mischief. His mouth quirks at the corners, sneaky and happy and Thor reaches up to tug at his dark hair.
He will spend years like this, looking at his husband, simply looking, and wondering that he could ever be so lucky in this life. He will spend lifetimes with his hand in Loki’s hair, his palm against Loki’s cheek, his mouth on Loki’s mouth, worshipping him; loving him.
“Now your turn,” Loki grins and reaches down.
Thor kisses him again and it’s like this, chest to chest, mouth to mouth, that he, too, eventually pants Loki’s name as he finds his edge and topples over.
They do not fall asleep until well into the morning and when they do, it’s thoroughly spent and heady, on love, on laughter, drunk on wine and bliss, and one another.
Loki slides the silk of a pure white robe over his shoulders only to find it slipping off his shoulders seconds later.
“Thor,” he says, voice full of laughter, his hand at his husband’s broad shoulder. “I am hungry.”
“I did not satisfy you enough?” Thor murmurs into his neck and Loki swats at him.
“I will not be able to walk for days,” Loki says. “Are you happy with that knowledge, you oaf?”
His husband seems to be, unfortunately. Thor gives him a grin like he is his sun, as though Loki is his moon, hung high in the sky. Thor has looked at him like this for longer than he knows. It had taken him until their wedding night to realize it, but Loki does not mind it so much now.
He has waited centuries for his childhood love. It was just his luck that he had fallen in love with an idiot, so very long ago, but it is all irrelevant now, he supposes. Now, Thor can’t keep his hands off of him.
Now, Thor touches him and watches him as though he is something precious, something to be treasured. As though he, Loki, is of gold.
It is a heady feeling, but more than that, it is something that catches him deep in his chest, winds its way into his gut. All his life, Loki has been made to feel his smallness, acutely. For Thor to kiss him as though he is anything but is something Loki will spend years trying to understand.
“I do not think anyone expects us to leave our chambers for days,” Thor says and tries to slip his hand into Loki’s trousers again.
“Let my body recover,” Loki says, slapping Thor’s hand. “And that is not true. The Jotun party leaves soon and we will have to address them together.”
Thor looks sad for just long enough that Loki assents, leans forward to kiss him. It’s not as filthy as Thor maybe would like it. It’s a sweet thing, all affection. Thor likes this too, it seems. He beams into Loki’s kiss like the very sun itself.
It is terrible.
Loki loves it very much.
He turns to fill a bowl with fruit and Thor comes up behind him, sliding his hands around and resting his chin on top of Loki’s shoulder. Loki can feel the breadth and muscle of Thor’s chest and it makes him dizzy. Everything about Thor makes him dizzy. There is a raw strength and girth to him that makes Loki unconscionably weak at the knees. Thor would never hurt him, but he could, and that thrills Loki somehow. He has always loved a fight.
He feels Thor’s hair spill over his bare shoulder and it catches him off guard. Thor’s hair is like finespun gold and shimmers like it too, in sun and in moon. Loki can hardly believe it is his to play with as he wishes.
He cannot believe a lot of things.
“You swore yourself to Jotunheim last night,” Loki says.
“I suppose I did,” Thor agrees.
Loki lifts a strawberry and offers it to Thor. Thor smiles and leans forward, still over Loki’s shoulder, to take a bite. His bite consumes the entire strawberry.
“Do you regret it?” Loki asks. “You cannot change it now. We are bound by a hundred arcane things, like the moon and the river spirits.”
Thor laughs at that. It tumbled against Loki’s back and oh, Loki seems to be stirring with interest again. He cannot let Thor see that.
“No,” Thor says. “I regret all the days we were not so bound, before.”
“You sentimental fool,” Loki says, as though he does not sound cloyingly fond himself.
“Asgard and Jotunheim have been at war for far too long,” Thor says. “I am not sad to bring it to an end. And I am not sad to do so in this way.”
“By marrying the Jotun runt?” Loki asks, amused.
“No,” Thor says and Loki’s surprised to find his voice has an edge to it. “By marrying the Prince of Jotunheim. And the future King Consort of Asgard.”
“Do you think it will be easy?” Loki asks, curiously. “To rule together?”
Thor is quiet for a minute. Loki takes a melon and chews on it, the cool sweetness bursting on his tongue. Then he feels Thor press a kiss to his shoulder.
“No,” Thor says. “I imagine it will be very difficult. And exceptionally boring. But.”
“But?” Loki asks, turning his head to look at Thor.
“But,” Thor says, smiling. “I would not rule with anyone else, sweetling.”
That moves through Loki quickly, and slowly, like honey and syrup. He feels his cheeks glow pink, his chest warm with feeling.
“You are hopeless,” Loki says.
“Yes, that is likely,” he says. “Good thing you do not have a romantic bone in your body.”
“That is true,” Loki says and turns in Thor’s arms. He puts both palms to Thor’s chest and pushes him, moves them both back until the back of Thor’s legs hit the edge of the bed and then he sits down heavily on it.
Loki climbs onto his lap, his arms around Thor’s shoulders, hovering over him, a smile playing out across his lips.
“That is very, very true.”
He kisses Thor and this time, it is slightly less sweet and a lot more filthy.
If there is one thing Thor has always been sure of, it’s that he does not want to be a prince.
A King, on the other hand—a King in love, a King with his beloved by his side, crowns glinting atop their heads, thrones and lives joined, hand in hand, gold threading through them and between them, seidr and love adorning both, through the centuries, for all the rest of their lives—well, that is another story.
That, Thor thinks, offering Loki his hand as they step up to their thrones, heart beating rapidly, overwhelmed with feeling—that he wants very, very much.
art: loki in his wedding veil, wrapped in gold; art by: itscinni