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Runs in the Family

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1.

"We are linked to the land and the people," Father told Thor and Loki. He stood tall and proud. "There are costs and consequences, but we endure. We thrive." Father looked into the distance, out over the water and off into the edges where the void pressed in on Asgard. "Bor lived for over fifty thousand years. If you wished, you could live for twice that."

"How long have you lived, Father?" Loki asked.

"Too long," Father answered with an odd smile. "But I will last a while yet."

2.

"You must be careful," Mother told Thor the first time she caught him charming someone with the hope of something more than simple flirtation.  They'd had all their clothing in place, but that hadn't stopped Mother from sending his partner running with an unimpressed stare. Mother smoothed his hair back. "You are young and wild, but there are things you mustn't risk yet."

"Worry not." Thor flashed her a smile. "I know what I'm doing. I'll father no bastards."

Mother smiled. There was something sad in it. "There are worse outcomes." She pressed a kiss to his forehead. "Promise me: be careful."

Thor promised.

But he didn't know what he was promising.

3.

On his first campaign keeping the peace, hot blood splashed across his face and pumping vigorously through his veins, Thor met any number of people eager to tell him how much he resembled his family.

"You're just like your father," a man spat. "He never truly softened. He only passed it on."

"I will take the compliment," Thor said, grinning and feeling the rush of being alive.

"Is this not enough?" Loki asked later, helping Thor wash the muck off his armor. At moments like this, he revealed his colors as the younger brother. "Can we not go home?"

Something in Thor hungered. It ached with need. Loki's hair gleamed in the glow of the mage lights he'd used to illuminate their tent. Thor wished to touch it.

"No," Thor said, feeling the sentiment the whole way through. "It's not enough." He gripped Loki's shoulder firmly. "Never fear, brother. I won't let anything happen to you."

Thor didn't know what he promised, but he made the promise all the same.

4.

Mjolnir thirsted. Or maybe it was Thor. He slaked it again and again. It was never quite enough.

Father looked simultaneously proud and sad. "You are truly my son." He looked at the throne. "I had hoped—" He sighed. He smiled, a small, strange thing. "I believe it's time I chose an heir."

Loki went still beside Thor.

"Thor. Odinson. The family magic runs strong in you. You will ascend the throne." Father closed his eye. "In time, you may learn to wield its power."

5.

"You," Loki said. He was in a strop, angered to the point that his silver tongue dripped only poison now. "The family magic runs in you, who can barely spell the word cantrip."

"Brother—" Thor tried to put his hands on Loki's shoulders, only for Loki to draw away.

"Forgive me," Loki said with a tight smile. "You are the eldest. Of course it should fall to you. Never mind me. It was but a surprise. It's soon yet for him to decide."

"You always have a place here," Thor tried to reassure him. When he put his hands on Loki's shoulders, Loki allowed it this time. "Beside me. With me."

"Do I?" Loki asked.

"You do." Thor embraced Loki. Loki didn't pull away. Loki's hair was smooth where it brushed Thor's hands. He tried not to think how it would feel wrapped around them. "Always."

Loki's gaze went considering. He tipped his head back. He licked his bottom lip. "Brother, I think it would be best you release me now."

Never, said the ravenous part of Thor that would not be filled.

"Apologies. I didn't mean to hold so tight," Thor said, but it was a lie. He released his grip, but that wasn't the same thing as letting go.

6.

Time away from Asgard, his powers taken from him, was terrible and somehow soothing. Thor felt pathetic and weak, but he also felt a sense, for once, that what he had was enough. The violence running under his skin was quiet. The arrogance remained, but so, too, did his sense of duty.

Even when Loki appeared, the usual urge to take, to claim, to keep was all but gone, and only the love remained. Thor wanted to go home, to take up a place under Loki if he could not have one over or beside him. But Loki said he couldn't go home.

Loki said that this would be the last time they saw each other.

(In a buried, disconnected part of Thor, something tried to claw its way up, to roar its disapproval.)

Thor smiled tremulously. He accepted it.

7.

The geas lifted. 

Thor went home. He confronted Loki. He lost his brother over the side of the broken bridge and felt as though he'd lost a part of himself.

8.

"Your brother was adopted," Mother said. "But that didn't stop the realm's magic from taking him, too."

"It's no excuse." Father looked troubled. He looked angry. "You managed to hold yourself back."

"Are you saying," Thor said slowly, "that the bloodlust, that the berserker rage, the, the hunger—that it's all normal for us?"

"Asgard may be fed in many ways," Father explained. "Death is only one avenue to satisfaction. The easiest, but the least filling. A happy populace is a better path."

"Spreading the burden over several people also helps," Mother said dryly.

"Yes." Father looked away. "The worst of it may be passed on."

9.

It said something terrible about Thor how satisfying it was to have Loki in chains, unable to escape him. Thor put a hand on his brother's shoulder. Loki's hair was lank and greasy. Thor wanted to put his hands in it, to wrap it around his fists and never let go.

10.

Loki had returned, but he never really came back. There was a part of him that was gone, a part of him that refused to engage, a part that held back from Thor no matter how he reached for it. Thor went to visit him in prison once, and the urge to push him down and demand fealty, loyalty, a promise to never leave (to demand something more) was so overwhelming that he turned on his heel and left without a word.

He went to Mother.

"One of those other ways," Thor said carefully, not able to look Mother in the eye when asking this, "would it entail—?"

"Sex alone won't help," Mother said bluntly. "But yes, your father found it much easier once he met and married me."

"Then why did you warn me away from finding someone when I was young?" Thor asked.

"Because when you find the right person, someone the magic will accept, you'll never be able to let them go."

"The Lady Jane." Thor met Mother's eyes, but was unable to find the words. "She—it never—"

"No one says you can't find a kinder love before settling down," Mother said gently.

"What if I've already found that one, but it's not—" Thor couldn't say it. His mind kept shying away from something he'd never, with all his vaunted courage, been able to face head on. "He's not—"

Mother went pale. Her hands found his. "We'll send you on campaign. The Nine are restless."

11.

Things didn't work out with Lady Jane. They didn't work out with Loki, either.

Father must have sensed Thor's restlessness, his need, because he let Thor go.

(Except it was never Father at all, and if Thor had known, he never would have been able to leave.)

12.

When Father had said he'd passed on the worst of it, Thor had never imagined he'd meant Thor had an older sister.

13.

Loki betrayed him, as he always did, and Thor was decided. He hadn't let the hunger rule him in years. He could do this. He could let Loki go.

So he did.

14.

Loki came back to him.

15.

On the ship, prepared to find a new home, Thor couldn't hold himself back any longer. It wasn't the violent, possessive thing that had pressed on him in his younger years. It started with a hug, Loki letting out a startled breath of air as Thor wrapped his arms around him and held on. It progressed to touching Loki's hair, a gentle touch cradling the back of his skull. Thor pressed their foreheads together, and he wanted more, he wanted so much more, but he was so grateful to have this.

"Thor," Loki said, soft, uncertain, though Loki was never uncertain.

Thor was sure of this, the family magic a weak fluttering in the background, easily ignored. He pressed their lips lightly together, and it was him, all him, his own aching need that led to him licking at Loki's bottom lip and begging, "Please, brother, let me in."

Loki allowed it. To Thor's astonishment, Loki encouraged, embraced it. He pulled Thor into bed and filled up the empty spaces.

17.

For a short while, Thor was desperately happy.

18.

Thanos came.

Thor was going to kill him.

19.

Thor did.

20.

Loki—a Loki, not his Loki—sat in a prison cell.

Thor snuck past it.

21.

Thor had one last question for his mother. "Could it bring him back? The family magic?"

"I don't know," Mother told him.

Not good enough, but it was a start.

22.

There was, of course, an easier way. No one let him use the gauntlet to start. After, there was a battle. Every drop of Chitauri blood that dripped from Thor's ax fed his power. But when it was over, the dust drifting on the wind, the time machine needed to be rebuilt. In the meanwhile, the gauntlet was still there.

Those left of the Avengers took their turns guarding it. Thor was given his own watch—his own opportunity. He felt he had power enough to manage this.

He could have sacrificed himself to bring back his people. He could have settled for bringing back his mother, his father. There were so many things Thor could have done.

Thor was selfish, the most selfish he'd ever been.

23.

The first thing Loki did was stab him.

"It's me," Thor said, pulling the knife from his side and throwing it away. Loki made a gesture and struck again, and Thor grabbed his wrists, squeezing until Loki dropped both newly summoned daggers he wielded. Thor pulled Loki into his arms. He buried his face in Loki's hair. "It's me, brother. I have you. You're safe."

Loki relaxed slowly. "You are the only person stupid enough to embrace a man attempting to murder you."

"Only you." Thor laughed, a choked sound. "Only you."

24.

"Friend rabbit," Thor greeted Rocket, hoping to evoke a feeling of camaraderie and friendship. "Would your ship have space for two new crew members? One of whom need stay hidden until we are ready to depart?"

"Oh. Oh, no. What did you do?" Rocket asked.

Thor smiled sheepishly.

25.

"It was a mistake to give the keepers of the realm's magic responsibility for its rule," Thor told Valkyrie. "The worst of the effects are most easily managed from a distance. And how many of our wars could have been avoided if there had been someone to tell us no, to act as a barrier to our bloodlust?"

"That's not the only reason you're leaving," Valkyrie said knowingly.

"It's not," Thor agreed. "But it doesn't change that I'm not fit to rule." He looked up toward space, adventure calling to him. "It doesn't change that I don't wish to rule." He met Valkyrie's gaze. "You've seen the best and worst the last royal family had to offer. I assure you: you can do better."

"I will," Valkyrie vowed.

Asgard the people were in good hands. Asgard the power? Thor had his own plans for feeding it.

26.

"Thor." Loki clung to Thor, sequestered in their bunk for the night. "Thor, please."

"Anything." Thor gasped the offer between pressing open-mouthed kisses to Loki's throat. "Anything you need."

This time, Thor knew what he promised. He meant it.

27.

It was enough.