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Before the Gold and Glimmer Have Been Replaced

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Loki navigates the twists and turns of golden halls turned silver in the moonlight, steps silent, sure, stalwartly refusing to betray his weariness. Day after day of lessons in all manner of sorcery from elven to demon to his father’s own seidr would not be so tiring, perhaps, if it didn’t require hours on end with Amora and the other girls— only girls, for no other man would deign to pursue such lessons. Norns forbid they even bother to see for themselves how the women of Asgard spend their time. For all the venerated warriors and warriors-to-be knew, his classmates are brewing poisons and plotting Asgard's demise; or, if Thor's teasing is to be believed, spending a considerable amount of their time allowing Loki to seduce them into brazen wenches.

Thor only spreads those rumors to aid him. Or perhaps he truly is oblivious to the truth—it wouldn't be the first time. Leave it to Thor to ignore the allegations and evidence that the second son of Odin can only muster a passing interest in female flesh, when pressed. Aesthetically, they’re pleasing to look at, he can say, until they open their mouths. Tolerable to him are only Amora and sometimes Lorelei, but even they stretch his patience every other day. What use could anyone have for such vapid idiocy, such insidious frailty? At least he, thin and weak by most Aesir standards, is possessed of wiry muscle and skill with blades and spears and arrows. Those who boast of warrior prowess—the shield-heathens like Sif the Slovenly (her name is like the filthiest curse, even for him to think, so he can only stomach it alongside petty monikers) and Brunnhilde, basher of brains and anything resembling proper logic, only inspire revulsion and its ilk. Of the two, Brunnhilde openly scorns his own gender, he might add, and no sillier notion he can possibly find, not even in the children's stories of his youth. Well, perhaps if he digs a hand into the ridiculous, unruly bush that has lately begun to lay siege to Volstagg's face he might seize one, but the risk of losing the hand in the process would be too great. Out of all Thor’s friends’ tendency toward uncleanliness, the Valiant (though ever-growing voluminous, as Hogun has taken to calling him) is decidedly the worst offender.

To think—

"Loki."

The word itself has little effect, but the voice that utters it provokes the opposite. Caught off guard, he freezes. A moment of weakness, he knows, and he hates that knowledge. But still, with knowledge, even that which does him no favors can be twisted to suit his purposes; one of the few things he inherited from his father, no doubt.

Rolling his shoulders, as tense as they are, is a challenge, but he does not let the strain of effort show as he spins sinuously to face She Who Intrudes Upon His Time. He could groan, make a show of it at that, but a smile will set the Lady Sif on edge, so that is what he wears. “My dearest lady,” he says, spreading his arms wide and presenting her with a mockery of a bow. “What peril troubles you so that you are forced to come to me with it? Or, surely, this is a vision, brought to me through my intense subconscious desire for your presence.”

Her scowl does not shift, except maybe to darken, blue eyes vicious—but weak, dull, compared to those of he whom she calls beloved. With her strong shoulders thrown back and her hair still tied up in the rigid ponytail she sports for training, she looks nothing less than formidable and battle-ready. If she put her mind to it, and he didn’t put up a fight, Sif could certainly kick his ass halfway to Muspelheim. Knowing that she won’t, for fear of what Thor might say, brings with baiting her a very sweet, very smug satisfaction. As if she can see the malicious defiance flash in his eyes (which he knows she most certainly cannot), she snaps, “Desist with your poisonous drivel, Trickster. If you can’t keep your sneaky insults to yourself, open your mouth only to tell me that which I want to know.”

His smile only broadens. “And what is it you wish to know, Sif? Surely it can wait. You’re cutting into your precious time with my brother, after all. It might be over quick enough on his end of things, but I should think you’d want to allow proper time for him to at least attempt to reciproca—”

She has her hands fisted in the collar of his tunic before he can finish. This close, he can tell that she’s already washed since taking leave of the practice fields, her hair and skin reeking of a feminine elegance betrayed by the roughness of the hands at his throat. How can Thor not only stomach it, but also actively seek more? Despite what he lets Asgard believe, Loki thinks Thor to be quite clever… However, on occasions such as this, he questions his own judgment. A man possessed of a brain, if not his senses, could not possibly stomach her womanly touch. His disapproval shows in his grimace of disgust, which Sif counters with an enraged glare of her own.

“Honestly, you—”

“Don’t speak of honesty to me, Loki.” She punctuates his name with a forceful shake. “You forget that I know you.”

A few terse moments later, her grip eases slightly—as if that will restrain her from slamming him into the closest hard surface, from attempting to snap his neck. Like Thor, her temper has always been a vice. No doubt she learned it from Thor in the first place, Loki thinks, and can do nothing to stop the resulting scowl—not that he even wants to try. They’ve been spending far too much time together, Thor and Sif, while Loki is left behind to frolic with the women. He refines his sorcery as they polish their swords, growing closer as he grows ever distant.

He has no chance to speak again before she releases his collar and takes a stiff step back. He resists grumbling “bitch,” and settles for thinking up far more derogatory, far more fitting names. Always, she oversteps her boundaries. Just because his brother grants her such freedom doesn’t mean that he will. Enemies aren’t permitted the same lenience as friends. With an exaggerated serenity that he doesn’t feel on his best days, let alone now, he brushes the evidence of Sif’s manhandling from the front of his tunic.

“Where is Thor?” she demands as Loki smoothes his collar. Because he can, he laughs.

“What makes you think I would know?” Even to his ears, he sounds bitter. If he’s lucky, she won’t catch it; but Sif has always been too observant for her own good.

“You’re his brother. He trusts you more than any other.”

This time, his laughter is genuine. Thor can bring out jealousy in anyone, it seems.

Unfortunately for Sif, she has fitted Loki with the perfect weapon to use against her. His sharp eyes drag over the length over her, bottom to top, a smirk on his face. Let her itch under his scrutiny. Let her think he knows her every secret. He may not have that—yet. But he has enough.

Feigning delicacy, he averts his gaze, clears his throat. “At this hour, I expect he’s taken himself off to bed.”

“But I’ve already checked his rooms! He’s nowhere to be fou—”

He cuts her off with a loud sigh. The smile that follows is a poisonous mix of superiority and disdain, a purposefully poor shade of something akin to sympathy. “He must have found somewhere else to rest his, ah, head for the night,” he explains carefully.

She freezes, as if the thought has only just occurred to her. Poor, naïve Sif. While he, too, hadn’t quite anticipated it—Thor always speaks more highly of Sif than any other woman they’ve ever met—her reaction suits him just fine.

“My condolences,” he says, unable (and honestly, not even trying) to keep the glee out of his voice.

Almost instantaneously, her mouth twists into a snarl. This is the only Sif he can ever appreciate: the she-warrior scorned, the fresh-faced, natural beauty curdled like months-old milk, fingers curled as if she’d love nothing more than to try and tear his skin from muscle from bone and feast on what’s left of bloodied organs and dismantled flesh, just so she can get rid of his taunting smirk.

A bare moment later, she’s huffing past him. It’s no accident that her shoulder rams into his as she goes, and neither of them bothers to pretend otherwise. They’re done with pretenses for the night, and they’re done with one another. Loki has won this round.

But his is a hollow victory, and he drops his airs as soon as she’s out of sight. Without further dalliance—he wants nothing more than to be alone for the rest of the evening—he stalks off in the direction of his rooms. As he goes, not a soul that happens upon him dares to approach. The monstrous glower he has adopted takes care of that, in part. But his mood has plummeted. Even the air around him sours, each breath filling him with disgust and a caustic taste upon his tongue that he can’t be rid of.

As soon as he slams his door shut—yes, let them hear his displeasure so they might anticipate and fear the moment he will turn it upon them—he intends to spew forth his rage at the helpless contents of his room. A childish act of violence, but what he needs to satisfy the urge that fills him to hurt. He nearly gags as he draws in a gasping breath, the air in here no less acrid to him than that in the corridors. More than anything in this moment, he needs to not think of Thor; but as is often the case, it is he who dominates his thoughts. So Thor now spurns Sif? Who could possibly come above her in his boorish brother's affections? That whoever she is, by default, also comes above Loki stings at his pride where once it would sting his eyes. By the Norns, as soon as he uncovers her identity, he’ll—

—Oh.

On his bed lies the lost thunderer.

There he sleeps, black and brown furs heaped over him so that only the flare of his golden locks peek out from beneath them like wisps of the sun as they rise over the horizon.

All at once, the madness and savagery brewing within him comes to a standstill. Giddy euphoria ushers them out, filling Loki instead with a gentle buoyancy. That Thor chose his company above all others this night, above any woman in Asgard that would allow him a good fucking, above his best friend and love and comrade-in-arms? As pleased as he is that for once Thor has shown that he is capable of thinking without using his cock, he’s even more so that Thor willingly came to him to avoid all others. Oh, Thor claims to trust Loki, but to have it definitively demonstrated….

It does occur to him that he might use this opportunity to antagonize Thor, exact some petty revenge for a slight Thor’s long since forgotten, but this evidence of his faith is too sweet to betray. Since brotherhood means something to him after all, Loki will prove the same.

As such, he’s quiet as he undresses, dropping all of his clothes to the ground in a silent heap but his undershirt and trousers. He leaves them on, for Thor’s sake more than his own. To his surprise, he peels back the bedding that threatens to drown the mighty Odinson—it would be comical if Loki could understand how he’s able to breathe under there—and reveals that Thor was not so conscientious when preparing for bed.

For some reason, Thor fell asleep completely, innocently, gloriously naked. In the morning, Loki resigns himself to telling Thor that people can’t cocoon themselves in their brothers’ beds without clothes on. It sends the wrong message. Particularly to Loki. More specifically, to Loki’s cock. But he’ll leave out that last bit; that is a secret Loki plans to take with him to Hel.

(Partly because he fears the look of disgust and betrayal and hatred that he knows Thor will give him should he ever find out. But Loki fears nothing, and he feels nothing. That is what the world assumes and that is all he’ll let them assume. Even Thor can never be privy to his innermost thoughts. Especially Thor.)

What brought Thor here, Loki does not know. He will, of course, find out—but not now. Not even Loki, famed for his lack of care and compassion to spare for others, can bring himself to wake Thor when he sleeps so peacefully.

While he takes little care to avoid disturbing his brother as he joins him under the furs, his touch borders on reverence when he slips slim fingers through the halo of gold framing Thor’s stubborn jaw, his noble brow. This, he allows himself, and only this. It’s a gentleness that he can’t bring himself to bare to Thor when he’s awake to see it, as much as he wants to.

Before he can think twice about it, he leans forward, a breath away from Thor’s ear. His lips can almost feel the soft curve of the flesh; if he were to stretch a little more, he could. But he resists. Instead, he whispers, "Sleep well," and pulls away, pulls the covers up over both of them, shifting away to settle onto his own side of the bed.

Oh, but with Thor so close, he can’t help but touch.

Unable to muster the proper hesitance, Loki curls his hand around the outstretched one of his brother's. It’s overwhelming, at first, a touch that’s so familiar but at the same time so alien. His thumb slowly traces over each scar and line and rough piece of skin. Each discovery sparks new warmth low in his belly. But it’s a soft warmth, one that quickens him to sleep rather than to restlessness…

And when he closes his eyes, the image stays seared on his lids. Blunt, tan, calloused pinned beneath lithe, pale, soft. His mind, though fatigued, grabs hold of the sight and refuses to let go. Eventually, when consciousness finally departs, Asgard's trickster is bound not by entrails but by a fantasy: one where he and Thor have no need for clothes for they wear one another in the most ancient way of the worlds. Stripped and sweating, he rides Thor, his brother's cock seated balls-deep inside him not for the first time. It is fire brutally melting ice from the inside out, it is morning's rays entwined with night's smoky fingers, neither strong nor brave enough to let go. It is everything, it is natural; and that, above all, is what makes it wrong. He is wrong—for conjuring these scenes, for enjoying them, for needing the heated press of Thor's lips to his skin, the sounds Thor makes when he sucks on his tongue.

Fortunately, in all the years that he's dreamed such dreams, Loki has never had conscience enough to care.

 


 

When Thor wakes the next morning, the first thing he sees is the gentle smile on a yet slumbering Loki's face. Of its own volition, his free hand reaches out to slip his fingers behind his neck. As his thumb brushes against the familiar, sharp bone of his jaw, then the corner of his thin—and some would say vicious—mouth, Thor wonders what could bring one such as his brother this sweet peace as he sleeps.