“You will go to Jotunheim,” his mother tells him to his dismay. “And you will tell Laufey your father’s decree.”
“Mother, it is—”
“It is a delicate matter only. They know your name. They know the power you carry with you.” She looks pointedly at Mjolnir strapped to his right hip. “Let them know the way things will be now, and they will accept it.”
Frigga sweeps a golden wave of hair over her left shoulder and Thor sees nothing close to remorse in her bright eyes. He’s never liked how Odin has issued orders through his queen.
“Or?” he prompts, knowing there is yet more she is not saying.
Frigga blinks. “Or they will be destroyed. An easy choice, in my opinion.”
Thor feels off about the whole thing as he watches her walk away.
He leaves to prepare for the journey.
It takes but a moment to arrive on the snowy planes of Jotunheim from Asgard’s Bifrost. Heimdall had not even offered him words of comfort before leaving, and if that was not telling of the way things would go, he is not sure what would be.
There is a small procession there to greet him with stony glares and thin frowns. Only one giant smiles, and he is not as large as the others. Around his neck is a pattern of gold so thin it shines over the flesh as if it was but a membrane of the stuff. Thor fights the urge to stare hard at the thing, an effort to distract from his nerves.
“Welcome, Prince,” the Jotun says, stepping forward. His inclines his head easily, while the others follow suit stiffly and with worsening stares by the moment. Thor knows none here are Laufey. “This is your first time alone in our realm, yes?”
Thor nods. He doesn’t trust himself to speak. His parent’s orders sit stuck in the back of his throat. If he speaks, he fears some inkling of the new order will spill forth unbidden from him, spoiling the whole excursion.
The Jotun’s smile falls flat, too still for too long as he waits for an answer that doesn’t come. Finally, “You may call me Helblindi. Please, I will lead you to your quarters.”
Thor nods again, satisfied with the heir of Laufey being sent to greet him, and tromps along in the deep snows after him. He feels the energy of the others who fall into place at either side. His immediate response to an enemy flanking him is to wield the hammer he carries and knock angry heads off bloody shoulders—but he cannot. He will not.
He has been trusted to maintain Asgard’s reigning peace. He will not ruin the chance.
Thor looks out to the far mountains, black and forested in the distance. He thinks on his father’s wishes. Imagines what will be left of the place if—when it happens.
The ruin will come later, he knows.
Truly, the only saving grace of the trip is the promise of a warm bed and good meal. Jotunheim has a marvelous cuisine despite its frozen exterior, and they appreciate a roaring fireside as much as anyone would. Thor finds silks and furs piled high on a massive bed framed in ice that scratches at the ceiling far above them. The largest Jotun moves to the fire to stoke it, the old scars flashing stark against his broad face as the flames leap. Helblindi is still talking when Thor’s attention wanes on the sight.
“…And you will have the best of the best at your side to keep you plenty busy through the long nights here.”
“Ah, yes.” He’d almost forgotten about that. Not much thought was spared for how could they accommodate him with anyone of their size? It would be nigh impossible, he always thought so.
“My own brother, in fact.”
Thor blinks. “Come again?”
“He is a bastard, but he will be everything you’ll want and more. I’m certain of it. You’ll not be left wanting.” Helblindi seems proud of the offering of his own sibling.
“And Laufey-King is alright with this?”
Helblindi looks confused. “Why, it was his very idea. The boy is everything an Aesir will love. Of that,” he says, looking sly, “I am confident.”
He feels ill, but he smiles to not let it show.
“What is his name?”
Helblindi flits his hand in dismissal. “That is unimportant. The boy will be wet for you, that is all that matters.”
Thor does not bother hiding the way his smile falls. Helblindi grins wider for it.
Thor must sit through two counsels with Laufey and the other son—Byleister. An ogre is what he is, larger than anything he’s yet seen. A vicious chunk ripped from one shoulder, the muscle healed over wrong. He snarls when he speaks, and Thor finds it’s easier conversing with a warlord who does not bother hiding it the truth of the violence he knows. He does not see Helblindi again.
Laufey is quiet through much of their meetings, speaking only when Byleister finds no words for one matter or another. Thor does not miss the way he watches his son and finds the look too similar to the way Odin has been staring at him of late.
The night comes quick enough and Thor is allowed only a moment’s privacy before he remembers what is waiting for him in his quarters.
The boy as Helblindi so strangely called him is, to his relief not a boy. The bastard son of the King is a man, a runt of a Jotun, small like Thor, but a man all the same. He wears jewels at his throat and his temple, woven in with the oddest of traits he’s seen a Jotun have—waist-long black hair that spills prettily over his lean shoulders.
The Jotun does not look away as Thor observes him. Not even when he notes the way the Jotun’s belly is rounder than the rest of him.
Fit for an Aesir’s tastes, indeed. Thor can only shake his head at the realization. The insult.
“What’s your name?” Thor asks him, calling out across the room. He does not want to spook him.
The Jotun looks at the floor and starts undoing the belted leather at his hips.
Thor rushes forward, hands up. “Your name, only.”
Blue hands go still before falling away. He looks at Thor as he nears, and Thor can see the nervous tilt of his brow.
“I am Thor,” he says. “Helblindi told me about you. You are the third prince?”
“No,” Loki says, scoffing.
“But you are with child,” he starts, confused. “This must be a cruel joke. If you are wed and expecting an heir, why are you here?”
Loki looks at him like he’s stupid. Then he stands, pushing close enough to tangle his hands about Thor’s neck, dipping into the hair at his nape. Loki smiles and it’s cruel. Then it’s kind. Then it’s fearful. Thor isn’t sure which is right.
“A first tryst, unforeseen consequences. That is all it is.”
Thor is careful not to press against his abdomen much, small though the swell is. Something about the way Loki says it sits oddly within him.
“You are willing then, to be here? Doing as the common folk are expected?”
It stings. Thor can tell. “Are not all bastards, princes, and heirs subject to the will of their fathers? It is my honor, my duty, to provide for the Thunderer, the Prince of the golden shroud. Does that not make me willing?”
Thor can tell it does not. But he thinks on Odin’s command. Of his mother’s cold eyes.
He will not risk a lasting peace.
Thor plants his hands steady at Loki’s hips and turns them around. He sits at the edge of the bed and partakes in no ceremony in unlacing his breeks. Loki wastes no time in settling his legs about Thor’s waist to straddle him, rubbing his slit against Thor’s cock, thickening more with every stroke. He can feel Loki’s own cock soft against his stomach through the tunic he wears, and he is wet, but not as wet as he could be. When he glances up, Loki isn’t looking at him, instead at something beyond. Perhaps the wall. Or maybe something beyond even that, in his mind’s eye.
When Loki sinks down on him, it takes not four rolls of his hips before Thor is spilling inside him. He climbs off and smoothes down the leather covering his thighs. Relief, that it is over. Relief that there will not be talk behind closed doors that Asgard sent an heir that cannot do what he is expected, what is the norm.
They wash up and lie down beside one another, silent. Thor falls asleep long before Loki does.
The next day is one long meeting and Thor dines three times with Laufey. He learns there are secrets here, in Jotunheim’s palace. Secrets he cannot see. Secrets he must learn.
The long stares Laufey aims at Byleister tell Thor it is a King deciding his son’s worth to ascend to the throne or not. The snide looks Helblindi throws at Byleister, when he feels like showing his face at all, are the marks of jealousy. That he is not the favored heir. That he is the one better suited for meeting reviled princes near the wastes they so fear.
He nearly broaches the subject of Odin’s decree. But the moment passes before he can fully muster the courage for it. They part and Thor wonders how long he will be here.
Loki is in the same spot as the night before when he returns, but he is naked.
This time, he stands between Loki’s spread thighs, nudging the head of his cock against the supple mouth beneath him. Loki swallows him down, taking him to the root, and he does it well. Well enough Thor lasts a little longer, trying to savor it. His hands find Loki’s hair, pull mildly, not wanting to hurt him. Just wanting to let him know he appreciates the effort. Loki hums when he tastes the thick spurts across his tongue, and he licks Thor clean once before leaving off entirely.
This time, when he glances down at Loki, his cheeks are flushed. He is hard, the flushed head peeking out from underneath his belly. He can’t be far along, Thor thinks. Then he realizes he doesn’t know how long the Jotnar are pregnant for.
Loki bathes after and Thor allows him his peace. If he had reached between them to take Loki in his hand, he’s not sure what would have happened. He just knows in his heart he does not want to be rejected, however silly the thought is.
Once he leaves here, he will never see Loki again. What did it matter?
He’s dozing when he feels a dip in the bed behind him. Loki crawls under the furs and settles on his side, Thor thinks. He can feel the steady beat of hot breath along his shoulder before he drifts off.
The next night, Thor is tired from another long day of doing nothing but talking in circles. Still he has not found the right moment to bring up the topic he so dreads.
Loki is dressed in silks when he enters the room, his belly covered. He is sat at the nearest table, eating from a spread of raw fish. He bites at something bright pink and only nods when he sees Thor enter. Thor spies a book open at his elbows.
A part of him is glad to see Loki covered tonight. But another, worse part of him wishes Loki had again been naked. Open for him. Waiting. He even liked seeing the swell of his—
“You’re wondering why I’m dressed,” Loki states, not looking away from his book as he flips a page.
“Uh,” he tries. “Not at all. It has been a long day is all.”
“Hm. Laufey often drags things out that mean nothing. I can’t say I miss it.”
Thor pulls off his boots and sits in the chair across from Loki, who does not seem to mind. “What do you mean?”
“When I was found out,” he says, “I was banished. I was an heir, once. Third in line, but still. Nothing a little regicide wouldn’t help along. Oh don’t look at me like that, it was only partly a joke. They are well used to those from me here. Anyway, now I am but the Jotun whore who opened his legs one too many times for the high court’s standards.”
Thor frowns at that. “Asgard does not punish love. It is made freely, with whomever you wish.”
“Ah. That is insinuating I’ve done a bit of free-loving myself. It was but one instance before I fell as I am. I told you.”
“You did not fall into anything, you are not ill. You are pregnant. That is not so bad.”
Loki has not turned a page in some time. “Not so bad for a banished heir who is forbidden to speak to any he sees. Yes, how silly of me to believe I’ve been dealt a bad hand.”
Thor glowers, staring hard at Loki. That a father could order his own child to be alone for all time—
“And they summoned you back…for this?”
“Yes. Subject to the will of a father I despise. Nothing I’m not used to. My freedom falls in line with his moods, which are often changing.”
“My father is similar.”
“How so?” Loki asks him, red eyes focused on him.
Thor figures there is no harm in sharing some small part of the truth. “I was sent to deliver news I have no wish on seeing realized. I am starting to believe our views on what ruling nine realms are, look very different when compared to each other.”
“What would you do as King?”
Thor shrugs. “Be honest.”
“Honesty will kill you.”
“At least I’d die with no regrets, a clean heart. I’m not sure if my father—Not sure Odin is capable of regretting much of late.”
“Of late being the last millennium, you mean?” Loki asks, turning in his seat to face him fully.
“How long until—”
“I’m not too far off, now. A few months. It goes fast for us.”
Thor bites his lip and struggles with the words he wants to ask. When he meets Loki’s eyes, he sees his expression soften enough it loosens the question on his eager tongue.
“May I…may I feel?”
Loki laughs, sudden and lilting.
“I don’t ask in jest, Loki.”
Something Loki sees in Thor’s must sober him, for he slowly falls quiet, considering Thor before him. Finally, after seemingly forever, his hands go to the laces of his tunic to pull and prod until his stomach is bare. It is larger than even the night before, Thor thinks, marveling at it. He edges closer until he can hover a hand over the roundest part. Loki hums quietly in acquiescence. Loki’s skin is warm where he places his hand over him, feeling the budding life there, under his palm. Can feel the thread of the world-tree enveloping them both. He closes his eyes from the force of it, for he’s not felt anything like it in all his years. Feels it deep in his breast as he feels the ever-vibrant hum of Mjolnir. He must keep Loki safe.
The word startles him, so he draws his hand back. He smiles to cover his nerves.
Loki’s expression is more serious than he’s seen when he risks looking back up. Something has changed, he knows. It’s different this time.
Loki pulls his tunic off, and Thor sees the swell of his chest, slight but there. His nipples are flushed, pulled taut across the fuller flesh. Thor imagines them full and heavy with milk and his mouth waters.
When he reaches to pull Loki’s hips forward, a clumsy transition from sitting to straddling that has Loki panting in his grasp—he can see Loki wants it. His pupils are blown. His face is flushed, and his palms are clammy and cool where they smooth over his back, down his own tunic.
Loki presses close to him, not looking away from his eyes as he grinds down, all heat where Thor is growing hard at the feel of him. He wants to be inside Loki—all of him, feel him close, split open on his cock until he spills inside him, fills him up. Gives him another child.
“I want to kiss you,” he says instead. Because it’s too much. He knows that.
Loki smiles and its shy. He doesn’t move to do anything aside from continuing the slow grind of his cock against Thor’s stomach, the heat of his slit pressing tight against Thor’s cock. He’s going to finish, fully dressed and gasping, and he knows it.
Thor circles Loki’s entire back with his arms, pulls him closer than they’ve yet been and Loki calls out. Thor knows it for pleasure, feels it spike deliciously through his blood. He gathers Loki up without asking and carries him over the short distance to spread him out on the bed.
He sees Loki’s grin before he’s undressing him, pulling harsh at his breeches until they’re around his ankles. He sees the dark flushed wet of Loki’s cunny and the smooth thickness of the cock resting thick against his stomach. Loki kicks off his breeches and spreads his legs wider, letting Thor look his fill.
Thor drops to his knees and licks into the wet pulsing out of Loki’s slit first, drinking him down, soaking his beard and neck as Loki cries out again and again with each wet drag over his clit. Thor fists a hand around his cock and laves wide stripes from his hole to his cunt before diving back in with tongue and finger. He pushes and prods until Loki is keening from a hand about his cock, a tongue in his slit, and the thumb in his hole. Filled and twitching and overwhelming scent all around him, everything so much, so Loki, and Thor feels joy in the way Loki can’t fight back the sob that’s forced from him.
Loki slaps at his shoulders, kicks at his sides until Thor is pulling off. He’s pulled up Loki’s body until his cock drags against his hole and Loki moans, eyes glassy. He presses back and Thor takes the hint. He fingers Loki’s slit, swirls the wet over his fingers to push back in and open him up and then Loki is telling him to move on with it, I won’t break and then he’s pushing in. All blissful tight heat, and Thor knows he’s never had this with anyone else. It’s near painful, but Loki urges him on, pulling his hair, baring Thor’s throat so he can bite along it.
He spills with Loki’s hole clenching around his cock and his teeth at his throat. He falls over Loki, mindful of where he presses along his larger belly and knows he’ll never want to leave this feeling behind. Full. He feels full.
He touches his belly again, breathing hard as he bends over to place a kiss there.
Loki stares and stares at him.
“You know I didn’t expect to get pregnant. It’s not common. A cruel joke, for my first time.”
Thor hums his acknowledgment. They’re lying beside one another now, warmth from the other’s skin more than enough that they don’t have the furs close at hand. Loki has allowed Thor the simple pleasure of keeping his hand over his belly.
“Why didn’t you get rid of it?”
Loki gives him a slow quirk of his mouth, then shrugs. “Felt like I needed it. Maybe it would keep me from being killed if Laufey knew a grandchild was on the way. No luck.”
Thor closes his eyes. “He is not fit to rule. Not fit to father.”
“I share your sentiments.”
Thor debates with himself only a moment before saying, “Odin told me to come here and…”
Loki’s eyes shine when he meets them. “And what?”
“Raze the wastes. For resources. There is much beneath the mountains of Jotunheim. Asgard needs it for our winters. They are long and becoming more arduous as each comes and goes.” Loki goes deathly still beneath his hand. “But I know it will bring war. I know it would be killing this realm and all those in it. I was told to threaten the same should Laufey resist, but truly, what difference is there? It will shatter the peace our rule has seen for a thousand years.”
Loki is quiet for a long time beside him. Finally, he takes a deep breath and rests a hand atop Thor’s.
“What will you do to us?”
“I would do nothing.”
“You cannot do nothing. Laufey will suspect why you are here at all.”
“Is it not customary to visit now and again?”
Loki tilts his head. “Yes, I suppose. But you cannot return empty handed to your father. He will just send another, or worse, do it anyway. Permission or not.”
“I will not bring war. I won’t allow it.”
Loki squeezes his fingers. “You are entirely unexpected, Thor of Asgard. You are a famed giant slayer and yet here you lie with one, transfixed on the little one still hidden from the world. What will you do to it once its born, I wonder?”
“I would have them safe, whoever they are,” he whispers, for he cannot help it. He feels that same tug of energy and wants very badly to speak his mind. But he won’t, he cannot.
But, another part of him whispers, it might solve his problem.
“Just as I would have you safe. From all your troubles and sufferings here.”
“A fool’s errand, I assure you,” Loki says, not believing him. “Once you leave, I’ll go back to wandering the wastes alone, as I have been. I suppose it is some relief to know there is a war on the horizon, for I’ll have time to prepare.”
“Come back with me.”
He laughs. “I’m doubly sure Laufey will not take that kindly. His disgraced bastard in the only place he is not allowed to set foot in? Very funny.”
“Loki,” Thor says, removing his hand to push up on his elbows. “Come back with me.”
“You are…not joking.”
“And do what? Be the bedfellow to the heir to the throne? The whore to fuck when he pleases?”
“Not that. Not at all.”
“Ah, so you do not want to fuck me anymore? I’m afraid I’ve misread the room, lying here with your seed sticky between my legs. Pardon,” he says with a frown as he starts to sit up.
Thor takes Loki’s face in his hands and kisses him. Kisses him again and again, long enough that he hopes Loki understands without having to tell him anything. But he knows that’s not how this works.
“I felt something, when I touched you. I felt right. In all my long years I’ve never felt so aligned with what the fates have willed for me. And it’s you—you and the child you carry. Never have I known something so true as my purpose, and that is to protect you both as long as I draw breath.”
Loki blinks, and Thor can see his mind working, the suspicion clear in his face.
“I’d be a political ploy. Wed the bastard heir of Jotunheim and he’d be legitimatized with an heir of his own. Threaten a world for its resources, and hold the life of those heirs in your grip, you’d be set. You’d be a good son.”
“You’re a vexing creature. I can tell you always have been and always will be. But I know you know I don’t lie. I know you can tell, that there is more in you you’ve not told me. You carry seidr strong on your back. I can almost smell it on you.”
Loki does try in earnest to pull away then and Thor lets him. He goes only so far as sitting up fully, belly resting in the cradle of his crossed legs.
“They told me you would be stupid. A brute only wanting his cock wetted each night. That I’d be done in a few weeks’ time and be free to take some food back with me when I left again.” Loki sighs and it’s shaky. “If you did not kill me in your pleasure taking, of course.”
“Obviously. You’re clever. And kind. I know what you’ve done, the violence only a warrior worthy to wield that ridiculous hammer you carry can accomplish—but you are more than that.”
“Tell me I’m lying. Tell me I cannot feel what fate has spelled out for me, in the threads of your life and your son’s.”
Loki’s eyes snap to his. “I’ve not told anyone I am having a son.”
“Loki,” Thor pleads, taking Loki’s hand up to place it firm against his chest. “Tell me I’m lying.”
Loki sets his jaw. Then Thor can feel the slow drag of seidr working plucking fingers across his skin, sinking further and farther until his blood feels light. The touch sings and Loki inhales a sharp breath when he realizes he’s not being lied to.
“You’re a foolish, hopeful boy,” Loki tells him, eyes watery.
Thor weaves his fingers through Loki’s and moves to press a kiss to his cheek. Loki leans into him and the easy pressure of his weight falling against him has Thor’s heart soaring.
“Wed me, Loki, for I want to know you. I want you to know me. Let us raise your child together, and more when the time comes.”
Loki chokes out a shaky laugh. “More? That is the most loaded proposition I’ve ever had thrown at me.”
Thor smiles, because he knows Loki will come back with him. That he’ll get to see the moment Loki’s babe enters the world, and see that babe grow into a warrior, or a seidmadr. Or something else entirely. He knows they’ll bring about much more than that, but what more was there?
“In time. We have an eternity. And I know in my blood that it is right.”
“Are you sure your hammer was your calling? You seem to be quite in tune with the magics of the worlds.”
“A hammer suits me better than words. You’ll see.”
“You’re an optimist.”
“It helps. Loki, will you?”
“Ask me again,” he says, lips close to Thor’s.
“Come back with me, Loki, and I promise you the freedom of the nine realms.”
He can hardly finish for Loki is already kissing him.
There is much to prepare before heading back home.
For starters, Thor knows he should write a letter detailing his intentions with Loki, third prince of Jotunheim. If only so that Odin and Frigga will not be so shocked to see him arrive on Thor’s heels when they return. He knows it is the smart thing to do. The right thing. But he knows if he does so, he’ll need to have told Laufey of his father’s intentions for Jotunheim. Soften the blow a bit.
He swallows with difficulty at the idea, and thinks on the next.
Second, he still needs to broach the topic of Odin’s decree for Jotunheim’s resources to Laufey, regardless. Since lying down for the night, he’s been able to think of little else. Doing nothing would be foolish, Loki is right. But he refuses to bring bloodshed to an entire realm unless absolutely necessary. He’s had his days of sport. This was another issue altogether. This was a game of Kings and Princes and Heirs, and Laufey held the key to all.
Laufey, who has of late had his eye set so soundly on his first born warlord of a son, Byleister. Should combat occur, he’ll be a problem, with certainty. Should anger erupt at the counsel’s table, there will be little for Thor to do but leave before blood can be shed. But Laufey will listen to reason, Thor thinks. He must. For how could a ruler of any land seek destruction instead of the exchange of one mountains’ minerals? A fool. Thor does not think of Laufey as foolish. Stubborn, battle-hardened, scheming sure. But a fool he was not.
Helblindi would be no problem, for though he was a giant, he was smaller than most, and his countenance suggested an easy enemy. Thor knows he could fell him easily should the need arise.
Keeping Loki alive is another matter entirely. The child, for one. He knows Loki is more skilled in seidr than he lets on, but how much so and how greatly affected is he by the child he carries, if at all? Thor must keep them safe. He has to. He will.
Should one thing or another go wrong, he has but himself and Mjolnir to get them out of it. It’s never proved a hindrance before, fighting many at once—but to remain untouched is another matter. And against the entire royal guard of Jotunheim, in the heart of the palace? He’s not sure they’d make such a clean escape.
Beside him, Loki shifts, mouth falling open as he huffs out small sighs in sleep. Thor watches him, greedy for the elegant dips and curves and angles of his handsome face. That he could have lived so long without knowing Loki, without knowing the powerful beat of life that radiates so vastly from the child he carries—that he could go a day longer without, is a wonder truly. Strike him down, should ever a delay befall him again.
“From taking chances,” he whispers. He places one hand over the swell of Loki’s belly. “From daring to hope.”
Loki stirs then, coming awake with a slow exhale. When Thor glances aside at him, he meets red eyes. They peer back at him, still cautious but nothing like only days before. It seems an age when he’d stepped foot into the room, Loki sitting sullen at the edge of the very furs they now found themselves under.
“What is it?” Loki asks him softly, eyebrows drawn up in a pretty bend.
Thor turns on his side, drawing close enough to lay his head atop his shoulder. Loki’s hand alights on his hair, and he closes his eyes, enjoying simply being. Beside one another. Together. He knows in his bones he’ll never be alone again. The Norns have willed him a blessed fate, indeed.
“I am just sorry I was not here when you most needed me. That you suffered alone for so long.”
The hand in his hair stills, fingers gone tense against his scalp. Thor strokes a thumb low on his stomach and Loki hums, letting his fingers weave through the strands. It is gentle, and loving, and Thor feels suddenly overwhelmed at it all.
“Are you weeping, fool?” Loki murmurs down to him. Thor shakes his head, no, and frowns as his tears fall wet against blue skin. “Leave it to me to find the one Asgardian fool enough to fall in love with me, and he turns out not only to be the crown Prince, but a terrible liar to boot. Whatever will I do with you?”
Love. That word means much. Means all the many lovely, terrifying things that had washed over him in an avalanche of a wave earlier. All the things he could not name, will not.
“I’ll not have you fear me, or what I feel. I hardly understand it myself,” Thor tells him honestly. “I wish only to bring you comfort. I fear to know the entirety of my desires would scare you into the trees.”
Loki seems unaffected by such worries, letting out a snort. “Your response when you touched me...” He trails off. “It could simply be due to the meeting of two magics from two different realms. A reaction of sorts.”
“You think so?” Thor asks him, curious.
“I’ve not had nearly enough encounters with others to know,” Loki tells him quietly. “I’ve wanted to travel. But I’ve been stuck here for so long, I’m afraid I’m half snow-blind.” He laughs lightly and Thor watches with private joy as Loki brings his other hand to cover the one Thor has splayed flat over his belly. “Yours is different. Yours is storm magic. Ancient as the ice of the wastes. Ours is elemental, yes, like yours. But yours is rarely seen in this realm. We draw from the earth. I can tell you draw from the skies.”
“How do you mean? There were others here like me?”
“There was one, once. An eon ago. In the first war. When the Vanir aided Asgard to subdue our lands.” He pauses and Thor presses a kiss to his shoulder. “Thiazi. He was a, uh. A shapeshifter. Similarly rare.”
Loki squeezes his hand.
“He took the form of an eagle, and used thunder to betray many close to him. He craved power most direly. He was killed and thus, a peace ensued between Jotunheim’s tribes. An ability to work together in time for the armies of Asgard and Vanaheim both to descend.”
“Odin told me it was bloody.”
Loki nods solemnly. “Aye, I’m sure.”
“Who killed him?”
Loki brings Thor’s hand up and presses a kiss to his knuckles.
“Someone a bit faster than he was, is all,” Loki mumbles. “However, you have yet more curiosity within you than he ever had, I’m sure. There are depths to you. Not anyone can simply know the gender of a babe yet to be born by touch alone, and not even one of your own blood. You’ve got something else about you, something I’ve not yet been able to lay my finger on. But I will. I’ll figure you out.”
Loki’s lips turn up briefly, mischievous, before he shifts further down in the furs. He rolls towards Thor and he takes it as a request to be held. So he does, wrapping Loki in both arms, feeling for all the world whole.
Loki’s hot breath puffs against his chest, slower and slower, until dreams take him once more.
In the morning, Loki is the one to kiss Thor awake. And he grins into it and kisses back, and kisses and kisses and kisses back again. Kisses Loki until Loki must push him away none too gently in order to retreat to a hot bath. He smiles, wicked, on his way out.
“Must you tempt me away from my one remedy to an aching back?” he chastises, even as he slips around and out the doorway. “You’re cruel, Thunderer!”
“Not half so cruel as you are to deny me!” he calls back and hears Loki’s laughter drift farther and farther away.
Thor pulls on his tunic, leathers and boots and sits down at the small ice-made desk carved out of the massive overarching wall. It blisters into magnificent mirrored cracks all the way through and he wonders how it can withstand, held together by seeming broken pieces. He pulls out a new scroll and dips his quill in ink and hovers, thinking on what to say.
He starts with Father, crosses it out to put King, smears that to instead place down Mother, and on it goes until he’s used three inches of parchment. He worries his lip between his teeth and finally, finally writes, Sif.
It’s long hours waiting in counsel once again with Laufey King. He’s somber today, as ever. Rarely does he speak unless it is to bark an order at his successor. Byleister jumps when his father demands he jump, and Thor grimaces to witness it. Wonders if he himself does not appear so…pliant to the court when he is home and responding to his own father.
Laufey at one point actually points at his son and he sits, easy as that. It is…embarrassing.
Thor decides tomorrow will be the day. He will bring up the subject then.
When he returns, it’s to the sight of Loki, lying spread out in only a pair of breeches on the bed. His eyes are closed but Thor can tell he’s awake.
He draws near and sees for the first time a hot press about his shoulders. A steaming towel wrapped in a twist. Thor spies the shadows of hot coals beneath the worn fibres and can almost feel the languid heat sink into own muscles in sympathy. Loki raises one hand weakly to wave a hello at him, lips quirking upward.
Thor sits beside him, leaning his weight on one hand. “I’m going to tell your father tomorrow what my mine plans to do. Then I’ll inform him of my intentions to pursue other avenues; negotiation, continued peace. That I hold no heart for bringing war or pain to his lands. He’ll know my word means as much as Odin’s.”
Loki’s lips twitch at that and Thor thinks he’s holding back laughter.
“You think it’s for naught?”
“I think our fathers have lived many millennia knowing each other,” he says. “To suggest to Laufey that any heir has as much sway as their King-father is to ask to be dunked in entrails.” He laughs and Thor thinks he’s missed a reference to some greater joke.
“What does that mean?”
“Oh, it’s—” Loki blinks up at him. He smiles. “When a warrior has been made a fool in public, they are berated for three days and three nights, rebuked by their lovers, denied food and drink, oftentimes disowned by their relatives. Then at the end they are to dance before Laufey and beg forgiveness while the people throw fish entrails on them. It’s a joyous festivity.”
Thor just nods.
“Do they not practice something similar in Asgard?” Loki asks him, and Thor could kiss him for how sincere he sounds.
“No, no, I don’t believe we do.”
Loki sighs. “Anyway, I don’t think he’ll take you seriously, if he even lets you finish. You’ll be dead before you get to the end of whatever speech you’ll end up rehearsing.”
“I do not rehearse speeches.”
Loki snorts. “You should if you want to be a good King.”
Thor wraps his fingers around Loki’s wrist, bringing his attention over. Loki’s eyes dance over his face.
“Of course I’m nervous. You’ll tell him of my plans to leave with you,” Loki tells him.
“He should know his son will be leaving the realm.”
“Tell him, then. And should you survive and make it back to me, you’ll find me lying here, dead. Word travels fast in this place. It’s like a prison. Nothing to do but talk and chirp at one another, wiling away the hours with clever cruelties and worse.”
“What’s worse than cruelty?”
“Niceties,” Loki deadpans.
Thor squeezes his wrist. “You truly think he’ll have you killed?”
“Did you listen to nothing I’ve told you? The only reason I’m still alive is to be your bedwarmer. Remember?”
“Joke’s on him then, isn’t it?”
Loki just blinks up at him, red eyes shining. His chest heaves, his breath rushing out all at once. He sits up then, and Thor watches the small swell of his chest bounce as he settles. He gathers up Thor’s hand and presses it to his belly.
He inclines his head, jaw tight. “Make sure your hammer is at the ready. I’ll be ready to leave when you are.”
“And what of your brothers, should all this go wrong? I’ll not let them harm you.”
Loki holds tight to Thor’s hand, bringing it up to rest against his chin.
“I expect you to do what you need to.”
Thor leans forward until he can nuzzle against Loki’s cheek, his hair. He presses their foreheads together and Loki sighs with it. It sounds like relief.
Huginn is sitting on the ice desk when Thor wakes. Thor sees the small red pillpox parcel tied to his leg when he rises, ruffling shining black feathers. One falls to rest on the ice and Huginn inclines his great head, watching Thor with that quickfire assuredness only his father’s ravens possess. He pads quietly over to him, giving his head a pet before untying the letter. He takes the feather that’s fallen between thumb and forefinger to twist about, and Huginn nods once before turning to the open window. Thor knows it for the gift that it is. Huginn takes flight in a great beat of wings.
He breaks the wax seal and reads quickly.
You grow cockier with each day, I see.
We will be ready at the Bifrost upon your return. Make it back in one piece. You’ll need all of you to vouch for the package you intend to return with. Should your father be angry, we will stand by you. Should the package prove to be a liar and a thief like his forebears, we will stand by your father.
See you soon. Be safe.
Thor crushes the parchment and speaks one word to burn it up in a flash of blue light. He looks to Loki, who sleeps soundly as ever. Loki, who he’s so inexplicably drawn to. It’s almost addictive, being near one another. Thor knows it is no lie, for he can tell when seidr is being used to influence events. But there is something else going on, he knows. Just as Loki said there is something about him he himself cannot place. Thor himself is unsure what transpired between them the moment he first placed a hand upon his belly.
Once they are home, their real home, the place Loki should be—Thor knows they’ll have all the time in the world to learn each other’s secrets and desires and fears, all their talents and failings. How strange, to be excited to learn and to fail in the face of the one you lo—
He’s still cautious about that word.
Still cautious of the whole thing, really.
He goes to Loki, sliding in behind him so that he can loop at arm low around his hips.
Thor presses a soft kiss to his neck and hears him inhale fast, waking up. Thor’s hand delves lower and lower until he’s at the folds he’s come to be so fond of. Loki pushes back against him and Thor mouths at his shoulder. He brings Loki off twice before he turns around in his arms. Hands go to his breeches, but Thor shakes his head, no. Presses a smiling kiss to Loki’s cheek instead.
Loki turns his face to kiss him, soft and sure.
It feels like a promise.
Loki dresses himself in leathers and armor, jewels absent. It’s the first time Thor’s seen him in anything but the nude or loose tunics and leggings. His hands glow green where they weave through the air and as Thor watches, Loki’s long dark hair is braided and pulled back from his face by formless pulses of seidr.
He’s staring he realizes, when Loki aims a hesitant look his way once he’s finished.
“Will you do mine?” Thor can’t help but ask.
Loki smiles. “If you walk before Laufey’s entire counsel with war braids in, I’m afraid that will give the game away a bit.”
He hums, agreeing. “If you asked me a week ago where I thought I’d be today, I would not have thought this.”
Thor breathes out, humor falling away for the reality they were about to face.
“We’ll be fine,” Thor tells him. He goes to the desk and picks up the feather Huginn was gracious enough to leave behind. Loki eyes it as Thor walks over to him. He holds it up and Loki stares, his fingers hovering above the delicate thing. “Here, a gift.”
Thor takes a piece of one braid and weaves it about the tine of the feather. He fastens it secure, smoothing it back to appear as if a shining ebony blade among the sleek war braids he wears.
“Humble of you.”
“Father’s ravens are legend. They do not leave feathers behind for no reason.”
“You truly think your letter arrived unnoticed?” Loki asks him, sounding for the first time unsure.
“Huginn and Muninn have their ways between worlds. I’m sure he arrived and left just fine.”
Loki sighs. “How have you managed to live so long while being such a hopeful creature?”
“Hope keeps you alive.”
“Survival instincts keep you alive,” Loki says. “You’re sure I’ll not be drawn and quartered when we arrive in Asgard?”
Thor shakes his head, no. “Odin is Odin, but he will let me speak. He will let you speak. We are not an unfair people.”
Loki’s smile then is thin.
“Well, let’s get on with it then.”
Helblindi is again absent from the meeting that is sure to take most of the day and early evening. Again. Thor boggles at how much the Jotnar talk. Always talking. It’s a wonder Odin did not manage a way to negotiate peace before, with all the talking they seem willing to do. Perhaps his father had simply been in a mood for blood.
They talk of fisheries, of farming, of harvesting salt, of sailing the dark seas to the far lands, farther even than the wastes themselves. No one travels there, Laufey’s advisors are quick to point out. But they will need to hunt farther for better game, another set counters. They’ve been arguing the same points since Thor arrived.
Finally, for the first time, the subject drifts towards coal, towards resources. The whole of why Thor was sent here in the first place.
He recalls Frigga’s cold, matter-of-fact tone the day he left and a chill runs heavy down his spine.
Byleister growls as he shifts in his large seat. His meaty fist descends slow over the massive map laid out before him. The paper is made of grape pulp, Thor thinks, for the tint and the way it flakes easily at the smallest touch. Byleister, for all his bluster, handles it gingerly, reverently. A map of their realm.
“We sail for a month and when we make landfall, two patrols will flank the King’s convoy,” Byleister explains. “The beasts are large, indeed. But we are worse, and sharper-toothed. We’ll lose some small ones, but that is why we’ll bring them.”
A Jotun named Angrboda speaks up. “You suggest we bring how many to sacrifice?”
Thor bites his tongue.
“Thirty, at least. Aurochs’ are nasty beasts.” Byleister’s permanent frown deepens.
“They are sacred though, are they not?” says another. Laufey throws a hard look towards the voice but Thor can only keep his sight riveted on the King. “Ymir would frown upon our slaying of them. Think of Audhumla, think of Bor—”
“It needs be done,” Laufey says and that is the end of the matter.
“For food,” Angrboda explains more genially. “Their bones are good for shelters in the highlands, too. The tribes there will be thankful to Laufey for supplying them a remedy for the winds, where the snow is more common than the ice.”
Thor is still slightly reeling from the easy mention of the grandfather he never met. It makes his tongue loose.
“And would you require Asgard’s aid in the endeavor?” he asks to the King, directly.
Laufey’s red eyes slide over to land heavy upon him. Thor feels entirely too small.
“Think you Asgard would send me a hundred of their warriors?” Laufey asks him, and it’s loaded.
“Perhaps not so many, but—”
“Think you Odin would send me but ten?”
Thor straightens in his seat. “More than—”
“How many times have you been to our lands?”
“Alone and without the desire for a good fight?”
“Just the once,” he answers truthfully and Laufey hums at it.
“Precisely. Jotunheim has no need for Asgard’s aid. Funny offer, that.” Laufey leans forward in his seat. “That they send you now is a laugh. Years we’ve gone without an envoy between realms and they send the Giant Slayer. It’s a fine insult, you can tell your dear old father that.”
Thor’s brow lowers, and he feels a heaviness settle inside him. At his hip, Mjolnir begs to be grasped.
“You speak truly.”
Laufey narrows his eyes. “I know it.”
“That I was sent here, alone, is no mistake. I know that as well as any here do.”
Laufey nods and sinks further in his seat, casual and relaxed. Thor wonders if Jotunheim’s ruler does not know something Thor isn’t aware of. He wonders at how Loki is doing.
“Then tell me, why are you here?”
“Why?” comes the echo of Byleister’s rumbling voice.
There is a great shuffling and murmur amongst those gathered at Laufey’s counsel. Thor feels his neck heat, the pit of his stomach gone cold.
“I was sent to ask for the resources under the far black mountains across the wastes. Asgard’s winters are growing colder and longer and we’ve need of aid to weather them. I’m willing to give any aid Jotunheim so desires in return for your help, King.”
Laufey regards him for long minutes, the time inching by slow and tedious. He swallows three times before Laufey finally waves a hand. An attendant to the side of him places a plate of what Thor thinks is fish at his arm. He fingers one long, shining strip of pink flesh before slurping it between sharp teeth.
“It’s not the first time Odin’s eyed the mines.”
“Mines?” Thor asks before he thinks better of it.
Angrboda interjects then as Laufey continues eating. “You’ve no knowledge of Nidavellir?”
Of course he does. “Of course I do.”
“The dwarves spent an eon crafting mines all over the cosmos,” Laufey explains with a full mouth. “I gave them leave to construct their greatest forge beneath the snows, for who would dare seek such glories here?”
Byleister snorts, “Fool,” like Thor is a joke.
“You ever ask your father where he got that little toy you so love to flaunt?” Laufey asks after a swallow, pointedly looking at Mjolnir.
“It was a gift,” Thor informs him. It does not matter where it was made.
Laufey’s lips curl up. “You should ask my son when he’s warming your cock later, then.”
And he laughs.
Thor stands, letting his icy chair be kicked out of his way. The back of his knees ache for it.
“Laufey, King of Jotunheim,” he begins, “Your Allfather demands the use of your mountains, your forges, and whatever other resources he sees fit to use for the continued survival of the realm of all Asgard. Should you refuse, an army will be sent to seize the lands anyway.”
“Anyway,” Laufey repeats.
“What is your answer?” Thor asks him, angry with the entire situation. Keenly aware of how Loki waits, alone, for him to return.
“If I say no?” Laufey asks, voice low.
“Then fire will rain upon the snows for the first time in millennia. Odin will raze these lands until nothing is left, and your people will die out, cold and starving. I’d rather avoid that. I wish to help each other.”
The room has gone startlingly quiet. If such a demand had been made in the courts of Asgard, chaos would have erupted long ago. But now, only a myriad of red eyes peer at him, waiting for what will be said next.
“How comes about such a change of heart for the famed slayer?” Laufey asks him, sounding genuinely curious. “Just a year past I received word of several dead at your hand. Beheaded, weren’t they, Angrboda?”
“Decapitated and sent as a token of fair game.”
Thor winces but does not lower his gaze.
“I am sorry,” he tells Laufey, and Laufey only. “But I was journeying at the time, and it was my life or theirs.”
“How strange to send tokens back in a mere case of kill or be killed. Very odd. And who gave you leave to journey here besides?”
“My friends and I—”
“So it was a—a what do the Vanir call them again?” Laufey aims at his first born. “A sleep over?”
“An exchange of fun and merriment, as I recall them describing it,” Byleister rumbles.
Laufey holds up one hand and the room quiets even further, a dangerous silence settling over them all.
“So, no one gave you permission to step foot in these lands if not accompanied by your father the King, or as you are now, on one of these long forgotten envoy trips?”
Thor feels his temper flaring. “Correct.”
“And you slaughtered several of mine for sport, isn’t that right?”
“And nothing has changed. You’d still readily march destruction and death upon my people. For some coal?”
“Incorrect,” Thor rushes out.
“Why?” Laufey asks, and he sounds bored by it all. “Why should I believe you want something different than Odin, who I’ve only ever known to crave war?”
“He told me you were friends, once.”
Laufey blinks and then he’s laughing.
“He didn’t lie.”
“Perhaps not,” Laufey allows. “But that was an age past. A time that no longer holds any value.”
Thor holds his breath.
Byleister is staring at him oddly, as is Angrboda.
Thor doesn’t know what it means.
Finally, Laufey sniffs towards Angrboda, who dutifully bends an ear for his King to whisper into. They exchange whispers so low and from such height that Thor has no hope of catching what they’re saying.
Laufey jerks his chin and then Angrboda is leaving the room entirely. Those red eyes lock with his.
“One shipment of coal a month, from the mines.”
“Aurochs furs as well, from your next hunting trip,” Thor amends. “I will tell my father to prepare to send soldiers to aid you should you ask.”
“I want a crate of apples, also. I’ve missed apples.”
Surprised, Thor agrees.
Laufey nods, stilted.
“We can discuss the rest by raven, I’m sure,” he says in such a way that Thor wonders if Huginn wasn’t caught after all. “You’ll take your leave by nightfall. I’m sure my youngest will ensure you’re well compensated for your labors here.”
Thor nods back, ignoring the jibe about Loki. Then he lowers his head in a royal bow only someone of royal blood can give, first to Laufey, then to Byleister, who returns it fairly.
“Where might I find Helblindi, to deliver a proper farewell?”
Laufey waves him off. “Don’t worry about that one. He’s always slinking about.”
Thor nods once more and turns to leave.
“Oh, and Thor.”
He turns again to meet Laufey’s piercing eyes.
“Should I find you to be a liar, know I will not hesitate in raising the call to war.”
Thor inclines his head again, respectful and more than a little gracious.
Then he heads out the great doors and nearly runs back to where he left Loki.
He hopes he’s not too late.
Thor pulls up to a stop some distance from the door to the guest quarters. For Loki is already in the hall, and standing in such a way that raises Thor’s internal alarms.
The closer he gets the more he realizes there is cause for alarm, and it’s in the form of who Loki is facing, mouth in a hard line and eyes set blazing.
Helblindi stands hidden in shadow. He smiles plainly when Thor turns and sees him.
Loki does not look his way, but he holds a hand out, fingers wide. Seidr glows green and he waits, transfixed by the idea Loki is about to fight his brother. The threat of it hangs clear in the air.
Helblindi takes a step forward, into the murky light. He raises his hands and Loki, to Thor’s shock, recoils as if he’s been slapped. The green glow burns brighter.
Helblindi has done nothing that Thor can see, except step towards them. His smile is unwavering, discomfiting.
Thor raises Mjolnir, the flat head of her pointed steady and level with Helblindi’s head.
“Move, or I’ll dash your head against the ice,” he warns. Helblindi hardly spares a glance his way.
He’s so focused on Loki, and Loki on him and Thor feels as if some great working is occurring right in front of him.
“Loki, we must go,” Thor says, low.
“You take him, I’ll demand Laufey cry war,” Helblindi says easily. “Take him, I’ll ensure all Asgard freezes over.”
“Thor,” Loki says quietly. “Don’t.”
Loki’s voice is edged in warning. This is Loki’s fight.
Thor lowers Mjolnir but does not replace her at his hip. Helblindi seems amused by the exchange.
“Listen to your cock-sheathe, boy. On second thought, do take him. He’ll answer all questions you have. He knows what to do.”
Loki swings his arm up and down, lobbing a burst of green fire at his brother. Thor’s vision swims green, the heat clinging to his skin as it rushes past and it’s power, such power.
Helblindi waves a hand and it disperses like fog. His face twists and Loki’s other hand flies to Thor’s chest to push Thor behind him.
“A curse upon you,” Helblindi spits. “A curse upon your child, and all the ones after. A curse unto your womb. Let it be a husk to serve, to fill the bowels of the World Tree, delivering souls unto the cold halls of the dead and the lost. May your name ring true through centuries both long and rife in infamy. May all know your face when pain is summoned.”
Loki gasps and Thor startles to see tears gather quick at the corners of his eyes.
Thor reaches up to grab Loki’s wrist, pulling him away. Away from this hall, away from his brother, away from Laufey and the snows and ice, and all the many troubles of the wastes. Let them be done with this infernal place.
“May Jotunheim never welcome your kind again, monster-bringer!” Helblindi calls after them, an echo bouncing against the walls.
“Come,” Thor hisses as they hurry. Loki runs after him, hand a tight fist where he’s pulled along.
And so they run and run and run on into the snows. And they keep running. Thor’s blood is singing, and beside him he can hear the breathless rasp of Loki weeping. But still, Loki follows him. Loki is going home with him.
They’re safe and that’s all that matters.
Thor raises Mjolnir and calls for Heimdall to bring them back.
A burst of colorful light and then Heimdall does.
Their return to Asgard is rather uneventful, given everything. Thor feels relief laying eyes upon the familiar faces of his friends as he steadies Loki at his side. But then.
Thor turns on his heel, Mjolnir raised high in anxious expectation. The hand on his arm does nothing to quell the blood roaring in his ears. He expects to be set upon by giants frothing at the bit for stealing their lost prince away, and is convinced that is exactly what will happen now.
But then he waits, and waits…and waits ever more. Behind him he can hear Sif call out to him, can hear Hogun and Fandral bicker at the sight of him and his harried companion—and, yes. Loki.
Loki is tear-stained fury beside him.
“Peace, Prince,” comes Heimdall’s wise voice. “You are home again.”
Home. Yes, they are home. And the Bifrost is closing as Heimdall withdraws his broadsword. Thor feels able to breathe again, and does not deny the single shiver that racks up his spine in response.
Loki is glaring hard at the four warriors stood before him. Heimdall eyes first Loki and then the others warily, though lacking any hostility so far as Thor can tell. Curiosity more than anything, for the only thing that evades his sight is the thoughts within other’s heads.
A green glow flickers out of the corner of his eye and Thor shushes Loki, reaching down to hold his hand.
Sif doesn’t miss the gesture before aiming a calculating stare at Thor.
“A Jotun!” Volstagg exclaims, rather unhelpfully before Fandral elbows him in the ribs.
“Your King would speak with you,” Sif bites out, not allowing any time for a reaction, from any of them. And maybe that’s a good thing. “Pray he’s not in as bad a mood as he seems.”
Thor nods, knowing there will be no avoiding it.
“You told your father?” Loki hisses under his breath.
Thor steps in front of his lover, if only to provide a block between his friends and Loki. Takes Loki’s face in both hands and wipes stray tears away.
“I only told Sif. Though I suppose Odin takes care to see where and what I get up to these days.”
Thor huffs, smiling when Loki rolls his eyes. “Yes, you. And if I am to inherit his seat, he needs to know I’ll not burn it down.”
Loki settles at his words. Breathes a little easier.
“Yes,” Loki whispers, reaching up to cover Thor’s hands with his own. “Setting fire to the realm would indeed be a terrible thing.”
As if summoned, a raven’s cry rings loud above them.
“Look,” Loki tells him, squinting up against the sunlight. “A proper request is sent.”
Something settles Thor about being back home. Asgard has always served a great boon for his traveler’s heart ever since he was a young child playing hunter with his friends in the nearby wood. And though having Loki here beside him does inspire a bit of excitement coursing through his blood, he is more calm than anything else. Right. It all feels very right.
A confession he’s only teetered alongside rears its head once more the longer he tries not to look at Loki walking next to him. Love. Loki had called him on it, from nearly the first! And oh, how Thor dreads ever stating it properly, no matter that he knows, knows more than he knows the weapon at his hip is his alone, that he does, indeed, love Loki Laufeyson. Banished heir and third Prince of Jotunheim.
It is as decent a match as he could have hoped for, with his foolish and flighty heart. Sif will be angry—is angry—but Thor knows any pain the match brings her will ease in due time. The tryst they oft shared strayed not far from a pile of silks and furs, after all.
And besides all that…
Thor feels the power of the very realm at the edge of his fingertips and he knows it’s due in large part to Loki—that some nameless entity roared to life when they met. Some bestial thing that had always lain dormant, lurking in the shadows, until Thor gazed upon Loki and the life he carried, and the particular brand of seidr woven armor-strong beneath his skin.
It is a wonder, truly, to know oneself so rightly while looking upon another.
“Your staring is making me itch,” Loki chides without looking sidelong at him, and Thor cannot help but grin. They near the great hall and Thor can’t hold it in any longer.
“You’re right, you know,” Thor murmurs so only they will hear.
His friends draw short of the door, taking their places along the columns like good soldiers. Sif won’t even look their way.
Loki does glance at him then, and Thor notes the way he worries at his bottom lip. “What do you mean?”
“’Tis love I feel for you.” Loki blinks at him. “You recognized it even before I did.”
Loki’s chance to answer is overtaken by the booming thunder of Gungnir stamping power against the golden floors of the great hall. The door swings open and Thor leads them inside. Odin is standing, Gungnir poised mid-rail, hovering a good half foot from the floor.
A mood indeed, then.
Loki immediately drops to his knees, forehead pressed to the shining surface. He tugs at Thor’s pant leg.
“Down, you fool. Else he’ll strike you.”
Thor scoffs down at him, can’t help it really. “Strike his only son? I do doubt that.” He sighs once more when Loki tugs harder. Bends at the waist to draw Loki back to standing. “His ire will wane come midnight and a barrel of ale, you’ll see. Let him whine a while and then I will have a bath drawn for you.”
Looking skeptical, all Loki says is, “A…bath?”
“Stupid boy!” Odin roars, interrupting them. Thor rolls his eyes once more. “Cruel boy!”
Loki shadows him as Thor glides easily to the foot of his father’s shining throne.
“Cruel in what way, I implore you?” he aims up at his raging father.
Odin seems close to spitting flame upon him, and Thor would be lying to himself if it did not make his knees shake only a little.
“Cruel to steal the son of a warlord. You demand my armies rain death on their lands after all, is that it, boy?”
Why, that’s not right. That’s not right at all.
“That’s not right,” Thor argues, withholding his anger. “Loki was banished long before I was sent to play messenger. And besides—”
“You are the son of Odin, and as my son you are expected—”
“—I spoke with Laufey, and he’s readily agreed to offer us access—”
“—bring a Jotun runt here, of all places. Oh, if you only knew the beast you string along at your back—”
“And I love him!”
“Ymir’s bones,” Loki curses behind him.
Odin is quiet for so long, just staring down at them with his one gleaming eye, that Thor begins to fidget. Foot to foot he steps, unaided by anything, any anchor of comfort absent from the sprawling throne room. He wonders where his mother got off to, and decides her fury at the turn of events might be one to not only rival his father’s but exceed it in spades.
After all, he did all but make friends with a hostile kingdom, and steal their third heir within an hour of each other. Hardly the harbinger of doom and gloom as he was sent to be.
Truly, Thor wants nothing more at this moment than to retreat to his rooms, where Loki and he will have a chance to catch their breath. Decided how best to maneuver next.
“Remove your hand from that hammer, boy,” comes Odin’s quiet furor. “You’ll wield no weapon against me.”
The words startle Thor. And indeed, his fingers lay light but firm against the hilt of Mjolnir. She sings a tune quite seductive, and he knows that to answer it would indeed cause him the loss of his head. His father loves him, yes, but but even Thor knows the ruler of Asgard’s high seat has his limits.
But, even so, Odin is his father. He must understand. He will.
Odin’s eye drifts to Loki. Loki, hair still braided and armor still bright, stands unshaken under the scrutiny. A sharp contrast to the man who collapsed to the golden floor just moments earlier.
“And you,” Odin begins, tone strangely weighed. “You I’ve not seen for a long time.”
“It has been an age.”
“Several, in fact.”
Thor narrows his eyes. There is much meant in those few words, implications he has no chance at deciphering now. He turns to Loki, but is unsettled to find that those red eyes will not meet his.
Odin hums. “Off to the library, fire bringer. Hogun will show you the way.”
Like a shade, Hogun is there. He bows low before holding an arm out for Loki to grasp.
“I’ll explain later,” Loki whispers low to Thor, before walking ahead. Hogun dutifully trails after him.
The door shuts on an echo and Thor does draw Mjolnir then. Damn the past and future gods, he will have answers.
Odin waves a hand at his son’s display before moving to sit. He sprawls in his shining seat, only making it easier for Thor to round on him. Shakes his hammer to the mosaic ceiling and shouts his grievances, many they’ve come to be in so short a time.
“Peace, tyrant,” Odin sighs. “You bring me nothing but ailments most days. My head is throbbing.”
It stings to hear. “Father, I am trying to understand. What did you mean.”
“Tell me first of this deal you brokered with Laufey. Does he know you stole away an heir?”
“Not yet,” Thor bites out, and relays all he’s worked hard to accomplish since his time in Jotunheim.
“Apples?” Odin mutters. He snorts out a dry peel of laughter. “The bastard still loves an apple, the fool.”
Thor is still confused, still angry. But now Odin knows all of what Laufey and he discussed, and all that's left for Thor is more questions.
“How do you know Loki?” Thor questions, voice thinner than he’d prefer.
Odin’s gaze grows distant. “Answer me first this; why bring him here? Why risk all Laufey agreed to? Asgard will have those mountains, boy. Forget not the power I yield and what it means for those who would rise to challenge it.”
The statement sets his teeth to grinding like they hadn’t when he’d first been made aware of his father’s machinations. His gut rolls.
“I feel,” Thor tries to begin but cannot find the words. “He is mine. I am his. I knew it from the start.”
“Did he tamper with Mjolnir in any way you saw?”
“What? Why would he?”
Odin does not look at him.
“I knew the moment you boys entered the realm, there was something different about you. You’ve bonded at a level far more ancient than you give lust the credit for.”
“Ah,” his father sighs. “Yes. That.”
“Loki says it could be due to our magics interacting. He says mine is rare in his realm.”
Another snort. “That much is true, I’ll give him that.” Finally, Thor meets the eye of his father, and all at once he seems small and tired and withered. It happened so often of late. “He ended the first war by slaying Thiazi. Beastly demon, that giant. Caused nothing but grief for Asgard in those days.”
Thor’s thoughts whirl.
Odin shakes his head. “Ah, but the boy is a beast in his own right. That you met one another is,” here, he looks upon his son as if he felt sorry for him, “Unfortunate. Unplanned. If you do not dispose of him I will see it done by someone more capable. We will simply have to venture in arms to the snows ourselves for the resources we seek.”
“Dispose?” Thor spits, confused and wild-eyed. “Surely you’re not speaking of killing—”
“That is precisely what I am instructing you do. Letting him live will only allow sorrow to enter your heart, and you are too young.” Odin lifts a slow hand to run at his bearded chin. “Too young to live the truth of a long-forgotten mistake made by old warlords. Sever yourself from the runt for you’ll only find yourself stuck in a loop of misery, cursed as your fate thread is by the ever cruel sisters. It is not your fault you were born unlucky. Most heirs to this seat are.”
Of all the many things his father is saying that he does not understand, Thor cannot help but pick out, “A mistake?”
“My mistake. One I hadn’t the nerve to deal with when I most needed to.”
“What are you talking about you riddle-weaving fool?” Thor pleads, fingers twitching at his side on the hilt of his hammer. “Who is he?”
Odin blinks. Scratches at his chin. Sighs heavy and loud and looks at the ceiling. All glass and shards of light.
A commotion rises in the hall on the shoulders of a loud wail. Piercing and agonized, and Thor recognizes it immediately.
A light thrums painful and bright and undeniable behind his ribs. Loki. Loki is in pain. Loki is—
The doors to the great hall burst open, and with them comes an out of breath healer.
“Eir summons you, Prince—” she puffs out, red faced and sweating. “I ran here—I ran here to say. He has asked for you, Lord.”
Thor opens his mouth and feels thunder roll dark and far away in skies hidden from view. But it is his father who asks, “Where is he?”
“The gia—Prince Loki has gone into labor, Lords. He asked for you alone.”
Thor cannot breathe. The light is too massive, outweighing and overwhelming all other things apart from the numbing wailing of Loki.
Thor does not need to be told twice.
Big yikes amiright.
More on fantasy Jotun anatomy in the next chapter.
Loki’s screams echo down the halls. Thor feels the sound travel sharp down each notch of his spine, a painful knock until it settles hard in his legs as he runs. Runs in flight, in fear, in confusion.
Flight, for as he runs he nearly shoves his father aside to take to the halls. His friends all gaze wide-eyed upon him as he flings himself towards the healing rooms.
Fear, because Loki is in great pain, the very worst, Thor can tell. Can feel it not only in his bones but his soul. Odin was right, then, for the Norns were cruel. Cruel to weave his and Loki’s lives together only to tear them apart.
No. He mustn’t think like that. Not now.
Confusion, because Loki had said there were months left in his pregnancy. Months.
What had happened? How had things changed so terribly and fast?
Odin is a shadow on his heel as they thunder down the hall. And then it is Eir’s face there, shouting orders to her underlings and assistants both as they flit about a blood soaked room.
Blood. So much of it. Thor has seen plenty bloodshed in his life, but this serves to run his blood cold.
Litres of steaming water are poured into a wooden tub at the feet of the main table. And on it lies Loki. His Loki. Legs spread and smeared dark red. New blood shouldn’t be so dark.
He tells Eir as much, weaving and worming his way through harried healers until he’s at Loki’s side. Loki is all gritted teeth and feral snarling, but he is alive, cheeks flushed and all.
“Bastard,” he hisses, squinting at Thor as if he can’t make him out. “What in the Nine are you doing here?”
The question would hurt if Loki didn’t immediately follow his own words with a joint-crushing grip on Thor’s elbow. Thor places one kiss and then another on Loki’s clammy forehead, trying in vain to soothe him.
“You called for him, Lord,” a young assistant reminds him gently. "Many times."
“Oh,” Loki bites out. “How silly of me to forget.” He is so gone, lost in labor pains, that Thor does not think Loki even realizes the girl is busy wiping the the streaming blood pooling under his hips. Everything is on display, and Thor knows Loki would be grateful to know Eir placed him facing the wall not directly in Odin’s eye line.
Looking around, Thor sees that Odin is a golden barrier between the outside world and this room. He studies the scene with his one watchful eye, and Thor has never seen his father look so calculating before. A scheme forming even now, on his love’s near-deathbed?
He almost opens his mouth to shout his father away, but then it’s Loki’s voice he hears, cutting through the din and chaos.
“This is wrong, Thor,” he urges. “This shouldn’t be happening—”
The grip on his elbow tightens and Thor winces. “You’ve more strength then you realize, love—”
Loki holds tighter, cursing Thor’s existence.
“I need—” he gasps, “I need—books. I need to research what—”
A witchlight is cast overhead. Eir’s face shines under her own runework, expression severe.
“You can’t read now, Loki,” Thor tries to tell him. “You’re bleeding so—”
“I’ve more blood to spare!” he yells, furious. Then in a valiant attempt, Loki tries to push himself off the table.
Several pairs of hands raise in a flurry to subdue him, Thor’s first and foremost, but it’s Odin’s voice then that commands the room.
Eir and Thor stay put, silent. He does not miss the nasty look the healer sends his father. They’ve known each other even longer than Odin has known Frigga. She is one of the few allowed such freely expressed contempt.
Odin waits until the last assistant drags the door closed behind her before moving to Loki’s side. He holds out a hand over his ever larger belly and mutters something old and foul sounding, too low for Thor to make out. But Loki’s face twists and he starts cursing him in a language Thor doesn’t recognize.
“You sound like bloody cats,” Eir mumbles, hands warping the witchlight above them.
“My brother wouldn’t do this to me,” Loki abruptly barks, a clear reply to whatever Odin had been telling him. “He wouldn’t!”
“He would and worse. This is nothing compared to what they truly wish to do, trust me, boy.”
“Why should—Why should I believe you? I’ll never trust you, lie-weaver.”
Odin hums on a smile to that. He taps Gungnir on the floor and the room fills with soft golden light, then a rush of pleasant warmth. When his hand leaves the staff, it stays where it stands, obedient to the demands of its wielder.
Loki tries to scurry further into Thor’s arms, away from Odin’s approaching reach. “What are you doing, old crow?”
“I was always more fond of ravens, brat,” he mutters, hand firm and final as it settles atop Loki’s belly.
He closes his one eye and quiets. Loki is heaving harsh breath in Thor’s hold, and he tries, truly he tries his hardest to comfort Loki. But Loki is in no mood for comfort, and he is growing hot and losing more blood with each passing moment.
“It’s a curse,” Odin comments.
“Aye,” Eir adds, mouth tense. “It’s deeper than the blood. Deeper than marrow.”
Thor feels Loki begin to shake.
“Helblindi wouldn’t do this.”
“Loki…” Thor starts, but Loki turns on him, and it’s fury Thor sees.
“He couldn’t do this, Thor. He doesn’t know—” It dissolves into a wail and Thor blinks away the wetness gathering quick to his eyes.
“Enough, now,” Thor soothes. “Please. Loki you mustn’t speak or move anymore.”
“I’ll speak and move as much as I want, fool,” he spits. “I’ll pull the bastard out myself—”
Another wail that this time breaks apart into a sob. More blood gushes and—and Odin frowns at the sight.
That’s most worrying of all.
Something tells him to move, and so he does. Thor slaps his father’s hand away and replaces it with his own. Envelops the width of Loki’s belly with both hands. Feels that same nascent pull from the center of all things and all life until he knows more than anything that beneath his hands lies another life, in peril.
Loki’s child is dying.
And, with a grief deeper than Thor has felt in all his life, he knows the child is small.
Something isn’t right. Something more.
He blinks away steady tears and finds his father’s gaze.
Thor feels like a boy. Lost and terrified. Toeing the tree line of a dark forest he’s never wandered inside of.
A flutter, dim.
Feels lightning flare inside him, and it replaces the flutter. Feels as if he’s at the edge of a great expansive darkness he’s scarcely glimpsed before. A heady power hollowed out, carved straight down the middle.
Loki has been voiceless for some time. The grip on Thor’s arms has been missing just as long.
The room is warm and smells all of iron and copper and not unlike the very gore littering a field after battle—and he can not long tell Loki’s heartbeat apart from his child’s. Apart from anything. There is nothing.
“Thor,” his father repeats. Nods a single time.
That is Loki’s heart that is quiet. That is Loki’s blood spilling onto his shoes. That is Loki, the third Prince of Jotunheim, banished, rejected, abandoned—dead under his hands. And with him, Thor’s happiness.
Thor floods the room in light.
What do you mean this isn't General Hospital?
Longer chapter next time! This one just felt weird not ending like this.