There were five of them in the Statesman’s community shower: Thor and the Valkyrie, Bruce Banner and the people’s councilman Gunnar, and Heimdall. Here was the collected power of Asgard, still yet clothed, come to anoint its negotiator with Asgard’s blessing and all of its authority, as required by the people of Oash, whose planet they currently orbited. They waited on Loki, and Loki, idling invisibly at the doorway, was not yet sure he intended to arrive. Perhaps he would choose this moment, this indignity as being beyond the pale, and flee.
Thor was clearly half-convinced of it, his cheerfulness a little over-loud in the echoing space. The Valkyrie was half-drunk, mysteriously, considering their stores of ale had run dry weeks ago. Bruce’s anxiety had a green tinge to it.
And of course Heimdall stood alone, impassive. Loki felt the familiar mix of irritation and—something else. Something that had brought him to Heimdall’s quarters time and again, these past weeks, though he’d declined to ever put a name to it. He forever wanted to prod at Heimdall until his temper broke, to pleasure him until he made some noise he’d never have chosen to make. He wanted to do it again and again, to shake Heimdall’s unshakeable calm, to take him by the shoulders and say, Look at me—as though Heimdall did not look at him regularly when they were having sex and when they weren’t, and very frequently when Loki would prefer his attention elsewhere.
Of course, everyone would look at Loki soon. They could hardly help it.
Loki stepped silently to Heimdall’s side. Softly, in Heimdall’s ear, Loki said, “I could almost believe you all want this less than I do.”
Heimdall made no move of surprise, gave no sign of relief at Loki’s arrival. He watched Thor across the bay and said, “We’ll have a hard time hitting the mark if we can’t see you.”
“An excellent reason to stay as I am.”
“As you wish,” Heimdall said, ever placid.
Of course Loki wished; even his more perverse appetites did not run to—this. But he found he wanted other things more: the Asgardians well-provisioned, and by his hand; the approval in Thor’s eyes, after. Approval in Heimdall’s, as well—but no, that was too much to ask. Too little, also; was Loki not a prince?
Better not to answer that.
It had been so easy when Loki was younger, wanting only one thing at any given time. There’d been such clarity in that singleness of purpose. Loki hadn’t appreciated it then. “Let’s get this over with,” he grumbled, and let himself be seen.
“Loki!” Thor called immediately, which told Loki exactly how carefully—and anxiously?—he’d been watching.
“How are we doing this, then?” Loki said, suddenly unwilling to bear the force of Thor’s gratitude a moment longer than he had to.
Thor hemmed and hawed a bit, Bruce refused to meet Loki’s eyes, and the Valkyrie inspected her own fingernails and didn’t look at any of them. It was Gunnar—forthright, humorless, pragmatic Gunnar, man of the people—who arranged the rest of them standing in a loose circle, with Loki knelt at the center on the tiled, teal-blue floor.
“Your range is impressive,” Loki told Thor, eyebrows high, face hot with humiliation despite himself. Thank the Norns for concealment spells.
“We’ll have to be closer in,” Heimdall said.
Reluctantly everyone shuffled closer, until they were not quite on top of Loki. “Is someone going to say a few words?” the Valkyrie asked.
“It’s not a ceremony,” Loki bit out, suddenly out of patience. “Just get on with it.”
One by one, the men unfastened their trousers and brought out their cocks. The Valkyrie tugged her trousers down to mid-thigh, widened her stance, and slid her hand between her legs. She caught Loki looking, and her gaze was cool, disinterested, just as it had always been on Sakaar; while he was caught in it, there was no chance of Loki forgetting which of them was kneeling on the floor, or why.
For a moment, then two, nothing happened. Thor swore quietly to himself. It was perhaps inevitable that Gunnar should be the one to begin the thing. His piss hit low on Loki’s back, near his kidney, instantly soaking through the linen shirt Loki’d worn for the purpose. There was no point in dirtying good leathers for this. Then came another stream, this time from Thor at Loki’s shoulder, hot and stinking. Then Bruce—apologetically, when Loki spared him a glance. The Valkyrie’s stream was heavy, voluminous. Belatedly Loki wondered if that was what the drinking had been about.
It was Heimdall who stood in front of Loki, no doubt resting the entire weight of his all-seeing gaze upon Loki’s head, though Loki refused to look. It was Heimdall’s body-water that caught Loki’s hair, which he’d tied back in hope of keeping piss out of his eyes. It was soaking now, dripping. Piss trickled down his back and dampened the waistband of his linen trousers. Loki stared at the mortar of the tile floor, face hot with fury and—
—and with other things. Knelt like this, bent over himself, no one could see how Loki’s cock stiffened. Even he could pretend it wasn’t happening.
One by one each member of the council ran dry, even the Valkyrie. Loki did not move. The pairs of feet in the periphery of his vision moved away, steps echoing. A hand fell heavy on Loki’s shoulder. “Thank you, brother,” Thor said. “Asgard thanks you.”
“Indeed,” Loki said, for something to say. To his relief, it seemed be enough; now Thor’s footsteps retreated, too.
And then there were only Heimdall’s feet, still in front of him, and they seemed in no hurry to move. Unwillingly, hot with a maelstrom of feeling he couldn’t hope to name, Loki lifted his head at last to find Heimdall’s impassive, golden gaze bearing down on him. Incongruously, he held out a fluffy pink bath towel. Loki stared at it.
“I don’t believe you need be literally dripping when you arrive in Oash,” Heimdall said. “Only—fragrant.”
“Fragrant,” Loki echoed, incredulous.
“Perfumed with our authority?” Heimdall offered. Impossibly, he seemed on the verge of a smile. “Redolent?”
Loki snatched the towel from Heimdall’s hand and wiped his face, which had managed to escape all but a few spatters. Loki pushed to his feet, only belatedly remembering his unwelcome erection, but Heimdall was looking at his face, not his trousers. His gaze fell on Loki, full of meaning, which of course Loki could not interpret. Seeing everything, giving away nothing—that was Heimdall.
At last Heimdall said, “Asgard does thank you.” He squeezed Loki’s shoulder, damp with urine. “You’ll represent us well.”
Loki did. The trade commission of Oash—a hairy people, with a preference for travel on all fours—sniffed him deeply and gabbled among themselves and then, in faintly accented but quite fluent Novan, told him they found him an acceptable spokesperson of his people. Loki couldn’t imagine how they smelled anything of him at all; he could have cut the odor around them with a knife.
He bargained for what Asgard needed this week, the food stores and medicines and fuel, in return for another of Asgard’s precious spells, millennia old, the kind that disappeared from the speaker’s mind as soon as it left his lips. Loki felt the absence like an ache, if purely a psychological one. He regretted this sacking of Asgard’s heritage far more than the loss of its golden pillars and skyways.
Asgard is a people, he heard in Thor’s voice, as clearly as if Thor stood at his shoulder. Thor had said it often in recent weeks, each time more wearily.
And then Loki had done it. All Asgard’s most pressing needs were met and a handful of minor luxuries secured: cider for a planned feast day, fruit for pastries. He saw the last of the items delivered to the rendezvous point, just beyond sight of the Statesman, which waited on his signal. Loki bowed a farewell to the last of the trade commission, and when that person had trotted away, he called, “Heimdall.”
This region of Oash was humid and sweltering. As Loki waited he saw vapor rise from the dark earth, drawn out by the sun. Eventually the Statesman came whining into earshot to rest heavily some distance behind him, and it was only as Loki strode up the plank into the ship’s cavernous loading bay that his damp, filthy clothes began to chill him. His scalp itched. The seams chafed at his skin, and if he didn’t already know he smelled like a latrine, he could have told by how carefully others skirted him.
“Loki,” Thor began, approaching him—with congratulations, possibly, or thanks.
“Later,” Loki snarled, and stalked down the corridor towards the men’s showers.
There was only one person when he arrived, a gawky youth with his wet hair falling in his face. “Out,” Loki said, and the boy scrambled to obey, which might have made Loki feel some degree better were it not for how the boy wrinkled his nose as he sidled past. Now at last Loki could strip out of his clothing. He wished he could burn it, but the ship could hardly afford even that small waste, and there was the fire hazard to consider. Instead he kicked the clothes to a corner in damp, foul-smelling heap.
He was just turning to a tap when he saw movement in the corner of his eye. It was Heimdall.
“Well?” Loki said, standing there in nothing but his skin, foul with dried piss. He held out his arms, so that Heimdall might see all of him. “Do I satisfy?”
“You did well,” Heimdall said.
“You watched me.” Loki couldn’t tell if he wanted it to be true.
“I heard it from Thor.”
That old familiar feeling stole over Loki: disappointment. So he had wanted it—he’d wanted Heimdall’s attention on him. Except he had it now and wanted no part of it. “Why are you here?” Loki asked.
“You’ve done Asgard a service, at some cost to your—dignity. I thought perhaps you’d like an opportunity to balance the scales.” Then, to Loki’s utter astonishment, Heimdall folded to his knees on the tile floor.
“What are you doing?”
Heimdall only looked at him with that ever-unreadable golden gaze before dropping it to Loki’s cock. “As I said.”
It took Loki another moment before his confusion cleared. “I’m not going to piss on you. Why would you—do you want me to?”
“I thought perhaps you would want to,” Heimdall said equably, sitting back on his heels. He was very striking like that, relaxed, waiting—almost supplicating.
Loki’s mouth went dry; his blood trickled slowly, inevitably south. Before his cock could give him away, Loki said, “I don’t. I don’t want that.” He scoffed, a little breathless. “Heimdall, you’ve no need to debase yourself like this for me. For anyone.”
Heimdall’s gaze was steady. “I don’t consider what you did this morning to have debased you in the least. Do you?”
Loki’s face heated. “I came here to get clean,” he said, as if that would throw Heimdall from the scent.
The scent. Norns.
“I came here to say thank you.”
Like this? “I’m a prince of Asgard, Heimdall.” Loki turned away, so that Heimdall could no longer look on his reddened face—or not as easily, at least. He could admire the flush across Loki’s back instead, if he wanted. “Do you think I need bribery in order to—to help my people?” If that was the reason for Heimdall’s offer, it would be even worse than what he’d offered. Insult churned in Loki’s gut, mingling with something worse that he refused to name.
“My prince,” Heimdall said, but he was closer now, very nearly in Loki’s ear. His hand fell on Loki’s bare shoulder, his palm warm and rough with sword calluses. Unwillingly, Loki turned to meet Heimdall’s gaze. Heimdall’s mouth quirked with—humor? “I meant to do you honor. You make it very difficult.”
Incredulous laughter escaped Loki. “I did not ask it of you.”
“No,” Heimdall agreed. He looked at Loki a moment longer, and then he took Loki’s face in both hands and kissed him.
“I’m filthy,” Loki protested against Heimdall’s lips.
With that same note of humor, Heimdall said, “Did you think I hadn’t noticed?” Then he swallowed any answer Loki could have made, and Loki let him. He found his back pressed to a tile wall while Heimdall went on kissing him. It was some time later before they came up for air and Heimdall leveled Loki with that all-seeing gaze. He said, “I meant to do something for you that you would like.”
“And you thought pissing on you must be it? Turnabout, that’ll make me happy.”
“Perhaps I presumed,” Heimdall said with a shrug, entirely unchastened. “Tell me what you would like instead. We could find other uses for your cock, I’m sure.”
Despite the chill on his skin, Loki found himself overwarm. He was irritated, humiliated, hungry—ravenous, even, for something he couldn’t have named if he’d tried. “Why do you not believe me when I say I don’t want this from you?” he said. “Any of this?”
“Because you haven’t said it,” Heimdall said. “Tell me to leave, and I will.”
“I—” Loki began, but no further words came to him.
“Or I will take you in my mouth, if you wish it. Yes, I know you haven’t washed yet,” he said, forestalling what Loki meant to say next. “Or we can take the necessity of this morning and make something intimate of it.”
“Make something—what do you mean?”
“This morning, you seemed as though you enjoyed the experience—or as though you might in better circumstances.” Heimdall brushed hair from Loki’s face, focused, as though he’d said nothing out of the ordinary.
Loki sputtered. He’d have pulled away, only the wall was directly behind him. There was nowhere for him to go. “You’re mistaken.”
Heimdall’s smile was enigmatic, infuriating. “Ah, well. It does happen. Will you let me put my mouth on you, then?”
“Filthy, yes.” Untroubled by this, Heimdall sank carefully to the floor.
“That can’t be comfortable,” Loki said, lacking anything else to say.
“A towel, perhaps,” Heimdall suggested.
There was another one hanging near Loki’s head. This one was fluffy and yellow. He handed it to Heimdall, and Heimdall methodically folded it and tucked it under his knees. He palmed Loki’s bare hip, thumbing along the crease of it, and he smiled up and said, “May I?”
“Don’t let me stop you,” Loki said, shaky with chill or anticipation or perhaps only that inner gyroscope of feeling that seemed to knock so easily out of skew. Then he forgot all of that as Heimdall slowly took him into the wet heat of his mouth. Loki shuddered and let his head fall back against the tile, eyes half shut.
As he was with most things, Heimdall was very good at this. Loki’s cock had stirred with occasional confused interest from the moment Heimdall appeared at the door, but Heimdall’s tongue on the head, his nimble fingers at the root quickly brought Loki to hardness. And then, infuriatingly—deliciously—Heimdall eased back, teasing Loki along the knife-thin edge of pleasure.
Loki’s thighs strained with the effort of keeping still. When he happened to look down, somehow Heimdall looked no less dignified with Loki’s cock in his mouth than he did keeping watch on the bridge. He was ever unchanging and unchangeable by any efforts Loki might make, impossible to surprise or disappoint. “Stop,” Loki said, the word strangled. “Stop.”
Heimdall pulled off, a hand to Loki’s hip. “Are you well?”
Loki closed his eyes. “You needn’t, you know. This isn’t why I did it. Why I do—any of it.”
A dry chuckle. “I’m aware. And glad of it, too.”
“Then you know you needn’t humor me, or reward me, or—I’m not a child, Heimdall. You needn’t do any of this.” This: the fucking, the quiet moments after, Heimdall’s watchful eye on him during council meetings that sometimes felt like a gift instead of surveillance.
“What if I do it because I enjoy it?”
“Do you?” Loki demanded, off-balance enough to ask at last despite his dread of the answer.
Heimdall sat back on his heels and looked on Loki with that heavy, searching gaze. Loki felt his face heat, and for the first time it occurred to him just how naked he was, while Heimdall still wore all his clothes. Loki found he disliked the disparity. He tried to focus on that, the unfairness of it, instead of the urge to simply disappear. He would not flee, if for no other reason than because he still desperately needed a shower.
At last, Heimdall said, “If you think I don’t, I must have acted very poorly, these past weeks.” Loki looked sharply at him. Heimdall offered him a smile, though it seemed a thin one. “My prince, do you think I am so selfless, so noble as to do what we have done together if I didn’t enjoy it?”
“I suppose that does make it bearable for you.”
Heimdall pinched the tender skin at Loki’s hip. Loki flinched, startled again. “Loki,” Heimdall said, as he so very rarely did. Loki grimaced against the sound of his name and against the strange light in Heimdall’s eye, which seemed likely to resolve into pity if Loki looked at it long enough. “I would give you a gift, but I seem to be failing badly in the giving of it.”
“A gift of gratitude, you mean. A reward.”
“No,” Heimdall said shortly, almost as if he were losing patience. But it could not be that, for Heimdall’s store of patience was famously endless. How else could he stand guarding the bifrost all the days and nights of the year? “My prince,” Heimdall said, and Loki told himself that was better than hearing the weight of his own name on Heimdall’s tongue. But then Heimdall said no more, and a silence stretched out far past the point of awkwardness. Heimdall gazed up at Loki, seemingly at a loss, although that obviously wasn’t true.
Loki should have gone then, sidestepped out of reach, found the soap, begun the long-delayed task of washing himself clean of the day’s events. Instead he only gazed back, feeling a strange sort of ache in his throat like the ache of the spell leaving him earlier. He wanted to clear that troubled furrow in Heimdall’s brow. He wanted, just for a few moments, to be still.
He knew what he wanted. Damn Heimdall for being right, as he always was. “Rise, please,” he said, feeling ridiculous even as he said the words. Once Heimdall was on his feet, Loki plucked the towel from the floor and hung it from a bar; he’d want it later still dry and untainted. Then, shakily, he knelt on the floor as he had hours ago, though this time there was no audience but Heimdall. “I accept your offer,” he said. “If you still care to make it.”
“Please,” Loki said, unable to meet Heimdall’s eye anymore. Loki pulled the tie from his hair so it all fell free in his face, still damp. His nose must have been numb to the odor; he barely noticed it now. “Will you—please.”
Heimdall let out a long, slow breath. “You’re certain? You said no before.”
Before seemed an age ago. “I’m certain.”
As before, Loki kept his gaze on the tiles, on the white mortar between them that would soon run yellow. He listened to the clank of Heimdall’s belt, the rustle of cloth as he opened his trousers. Aside from those small noises and the ever-present hum of the ship’s engine, it was still. Loki’s hands were still, resting on his thighs. His breath came quietly. For this little while, even the ever-spinning wheel of his thoughts was stopped.
What came first was nothing he expected; it was Heimdall’s hand lightly palming his head. Loki wanted to protest—his hair was, if possible, even filthier than the rest of him, and still damp—but his capacity for protest seemed dampened, too. So he knelt, head bowed, while Heimdall pulled strings of his hair back from his face, tucking them behind his ears.
The hand went away. The rustle of clothing resumed, and the waiting seemed interminable. Then Heimdall sighed, a kind of letting go, and the rain began. It was warm and, yes, fragrant. It dripped from Loki’s hair. It spattered across his back, like the opening of the sky on a late spring day. It was absolution or degradation or only piss; whatever it was, Loki could bear it, as he hadn’t been able to bear what Heimdall had tried to give him before.
There was not so very much of it, for Heimdall was only one man. Soon enough the sky closed again and became only a ceiling, and the ground Loki knelt on was only a tiled floor. Heimdall’s hand returned to Loki’s head. Loki tried to shy away, but Heimdall threaded Loki’s sopping hair between his fingers, holding him. “Was it what you wanted?” Heimdall asked.
Loki scoffed weakly. “I want so many things, Heimdall. Surely you’re aware.”
“Yes,” Heimdall said. “Will you rise now, my prince?”
Loki didn’t particularly care to, but he did it anyway, pushing shakily to his feet. He thought only to look finally for soap, to be alone, but Heimdall caught his jaw in a cupped hand and drew him in. “No,” Loki said, beginning an objection. It was only then that he realized Heimdall had stripped at some point. He was as naked as Loki now, brown and lean and sturdy. Even now, dazed and raw as he was, the sight made Loki’s mouth go dry with wanting.
“May I show you what I want?” Heimdall asked.
Heimdall didn’t speak of wanting. All they had ever done was so evidently for Loki’s pleasure—the spoiled prince to the end, his desires predictably inconvenient. “All right,” Loki said, half-certain that what Heimdall wanted was to drop his hand and walk away, half-expecting that he would do so.
He did not. He leaned in closer, and he kissed Loki’s mouth with deliberate care—with tenderness, perhaps. Heimdall stood there in that echoing space, tiled teal-green like the ocean, and gave Loki all the attention he could have asked for. And, as with all things, Heimdall was very good at it, so that Loki could ignore the tickle of piss down his back and between his thighs, the clamminess on his skin as it cooled.
Heimdall’s hand slipped down between them, taking Loki’s cock. Loki had softened considerably, his cock as confused as anyone by his ever-changing temper. But Heimdall’s touch was sure and practiced and his tongue confident in Loki’s mouth. Loki gave himself over to sensation, to wet heat and delicious friction. It was with his eyes closed and a hand pressed to Heimdall’s hip that he found release at last, marking them both with his spend.
Loki leaned into Heimdall and waited for his breath to slow. After a few moments, Heimdall took Loki by the hand and led him to one of the showerheads. Loki couldn’t find it in him to argue when Heimdall began to work soap into Loki’s hair. Loki dutifully closed his eyes when Heimdall turned on the spray and rinsed out the lather, and then they did it all a second time. Heimdall’s fingers felt marvelous on Loki’s scalp, working in the soap.
After Loki’s hair, Heimdall washed the rest of him: ears and shoulder blades and between his toes. Loki had said earlier that he was not a child, yet who but a child ever received such ministrations, and so passively? “You needn’t,” he protested feebly, when Heimdall took Loki’s balls in his hand and gently began to wash them. Heimdall shot him a golden-eyed glance and kept on working.
By the time Heimdall was finished, Loki might well have been cleaner than he’d been since Sakaar. Loki still felt as if he were walking through a dream—not quite himself, not quite responsible for his actions. “Allow me,” he said, as from a distance, and took the sponge from Heimdall’s hand.
He didn’t take as long as Heimdall had; Heimdall, after all, had not been twice doused that day with other people’s fluids. He washed Heimdall’s surfaces and left his hair alone. Heimdall stood quietly through all of it. Finally he, too, was rinsed and clean. Neither of them had spoken another word.
The outside world knocked at Loki’s door. Soon he would have to return to it: the claustrophobic ship and his ever-crowded mind. He didn’t want to, but rarely indeed had the world behaved according to his wishes.
In that dreamy silence, Heimdall’s voice seemed over-loud. “You’re the wordsmith between us,” he said. Loki snapped his gaze to him. Heimdall seemed to search Loki’s eyes as if they were the cosmos. “In the years at my post, I lost what skill I had with them. But I promise you, all I have ever done with you, I did because I wished to. There was no other reason.”
Loki swallowed. There was that ache again, lodged in his throat. “That rather strains credulity, you know.”
“I had not thought so.”
“Well, I do live to foil expectations,” Loki said, to say something.
“That you do,” Heimdall said. Absurdly, he smiled as he said it. He squeezed Loki’s shoulder, and his touch was warm and concrete and quite real—quite unlike a dream. “I don’t ask that you believe me today, as it seems you’ve spent quite some time believing the opposite. However—”
Heimdall looked away, and only then, having escaped his implacable stare, could Loki see how the lines of his face had deepened, these last months. He saw the weariness in the slope of his shoulders. How had Loki not seen it before? How had he missed it until this very moment?
Quietly, Heimdall said, “However, I would like you to believe me eventually, if you can.”
“I will try,” Loki said carefully.
The smile Heimdall gave him was small and tired, and it hurt to look at. Rather than do so anymore, Loki cupped Heimdall’s jaw and drew him into a kiss. Heimdall’s exhale was shaky; what a pair they were. The thought felt like a revelation. “Come to my quarters,” Loki said, without meaning to. “I’ve rations squirreled away. I expect you’re as famished as I am. We could sleep after, if you like.” He was exhausted, he realized. Surely Heimdall was, too.
After a long, careful pause, Heimdall said, “I would like that.”
Something lit in Loki, like an absurd glow. “All right,” he said.