Loki's anger has always been quieter than Thor's.
There have been exceptions to this rule—big, explosive, violent exceptions—but for the most part it's true. Not just quieter either, but slow burning and stubborn. In Loki's heart, a grudge can smolder through a dozen human lifetimes. No one else in Thor's vast experience can cling to a wrong done like Loki can.
Thor has tried. He cannot come close.
Perhaps that's why they always return to the same hopeless standoff. The circumstances change, the physical location, but otherwise it is the same. Thor holds no grudges, so he cannot remember the hurts Loki has caused him—at least, not clearly enough to prevent hope from clouding his judgment.
And so he will always come when Loki calls him out. He will always step into the trap, not because he is heedless of the danger, but because he cannot bear to walk away. Each time he is warned against his own foolishness, and each time he comes anyway—unable to resist the barest possibility that perhaps this time Loki's fury will finally be spent. Perhaps this time there will be a chance for reconcile at last.
Thor can never remember the past the way he should.
And Loki, it seems, can never forget.
"I didn't think you would come," Loki says, circling Thor at a careful distance. The words are an obvious lie. Neither of them doubted for an instant that Thor would accept Loki's invitation and find his way here.
This world is barren, dark and grim and nearly lifeless. Pitiable plant life struggles to survive on the rocky ground outside, but here there is smooth-cut stone beneath them, dark and shining. Loki has crafted himself a palace out of the very earth, all shadows and sharp edges. An unwelcoming place, lit sparsely by blue flickering flames. A narrow staircase winds up and up along the periphery, until it disappears into darkness far above.
"Of course I came." Thor steps directly toward his brother, throwing off the symmetry of Loki's path and earning a disapproving sneer.
"Why?" Loki asks, implying by his tone that Thor has once again proven himself the idiot son of Odin. The last time their paths crossed like this, he spoke the insult openly; Thor chooses to see progress in the fact that today Loki holds his tongue.
"As always, I came to discover if you persist in hating me." Thor tries to say the words with cool resolve, but they still lodge an icy pain in his heart. Loki's hatred hurts him more than any physical wound ever has.
"I will always hate you." But Loki's retort comes too quickly. He is rushing this ritual of theirs, muddling the script. Thor feels an irrational stab of hope in his chest. He tries to tamp it back down and fails. He takes another step towards Loki, who has fallen still before him, and is shocked when Loki does not retreat.
"Always?" Thor coats the word with skepticism. "Eternity is a long time, Brother."
Loki snarls and lunges for him before Thor has even realized his mistake. A tactical error: Loki does not want his kinship.
Thor defends himself against the raging lunge of Loki's attack. He blocks and deflects, but he wishes his brother no harm and so stays his own hand. There are no hostages today; no innocent lives hang in the balance. Thor is gambling only himself, and it seems a reasonable wager.
Loki is persistent, but at last Thor disarms him. He breaks Lok's staff in two, in a violent spray of sparks, and then tosses it aside. Loki only snarls and hurls himself at Thor; he knocks Thor flat with the force of surprise and lands astride his ribs.
Thor almost doesn't recognize his brother in those burning blue eyes. He falls still beneath Loki's pinning weight and does not try to fight his way free. Not yet. Something feels imperceptibly different, and Thor deliberately lets go of his hammer.
"When you have finished trying to kill me, perhaps we can talk for a change," he says.
"Talk," Loki sneers. He braces his palms flat on Thor's chest and leans down closer. "What can we possibly have to talk about, you and I?"
Thor's chest aches. There are a hundred things he wants to tell Loki—not this Loki, mad with rage and ambition, but his brother—the boy Thor grew up with, the man he loved and still loves with all his generous heart.
"Aren't you curious?" Thor asks, ignoring the warm ache. "Don't you want to know what foolishness I have been stumbling into without you to guide me?"
"You've nothing to tell me that I don't already know."
It's meant to be a taunt. Thor can tell by the sharp edge in Loki's voice, and by the malicious glitter in his eyes. But instead of driving Thor lower, the words fill him with an unexpected rush of genuine hope. They are as good as a confession that Loki still cares; what other reason could he have for knowing the foolish minutia of Thor's life? Why would he claim to know all unless he had bothered to learn such details, and what point in learning if he does not care?
Loki must read something of Thor's thoughts on his face, because a look of confusion replaces the cold veneer of wrath. Thor cannot help it; he smiles.
Comprehension darkens Loki's expression. "The universe does not revolve around you."
"Then why do you take such an interest in my endeavors?" Thor asks, smiling wider. "Why have you invited me here if not because you wished to see me?"
"I did not invite you. I threatened you."
"They are one and the same." This is another fact too obvious to dispute. Whatever his brother's reasons, Loki wanted him here, and for once did not draw any innocents into the line of fire. It is immaterial what form the invitation took.
Loki is clearly displeased with Thor's observation, but he does not retort. Instead he looks very nearly conflicted, and when at last his expression turns resolved he moves to stand.
Thor does not know what makes him reach for his brother and drag him back down. A surge of warmth in his chest tells him to keep Loki close, and he obeys without thought. Loki lands heavily, too startled to be graceful, straddling Thor's stomach this time instead of his chest. There's a smugness in his eyes, as though Thor's response comes as no surprise to him.
"I suspected as much," Loki murmurs. One hand braces over Thor's heart, palm flat and warm as Loki leans closer. Thor doesn't know why his pulse speeds when Loki's other hand touches his face. Long fingers trace his jaw, his cheekbone—it's when Loki's touch traces over his lower lip that Thor panics and intercepts. He grabs Loki's wrist and holds it warily away, staring at his brother in unmasked confusion.
"Yes," Loki says, still looking smug. "Of course you haven't realized. You never did know yourself half so well as you should."
"And what is it I have failed to realize?" Thor asks. He is suddenly terrified.
Loki smiles and leans close. His proximity is alarming distraction, his body cool above Thor. His mouth is so near that Thor feels his brother's breath ghost his lips when Loki speaks.
Then Loki kisses him, and Thor's heart fractures to pieces.
It's a jarring revelation, the moment Thor realizes he wants Loki. It's a tidal wave of emotion cut loose in his chest all at once, a craving so violent it knocks the air from his lungs. Guilt and heat rush through him in equal measure as he asks the inconceivable question: how long has he desired his brother?
Centuries, he realizes.
He reaches for Loki, and he doesn't marshal his strength as he drags his brother flush against him. Loki gasps into the kiss, and Thor takes advantage of the moment to thrust his tongue past Loki's parted lips, to taste and claim. He half expects Loki to bite him, even though his brother started this—but Loki allows the possessive sweep of Thor's tongue. He does not protest the bruising strength of Thor's hands holding him close.
A soft and fading voice of reason in Thor's head says to stop. Step back. Look at what you are doing, that voice says. Look at what you intend to take, and see that it is wrong.
Thor doesn't listen. The torrent of desire in his chest is too strong. If Loki allows it, Thor will have him here and now. He will consider the consequences later.
Loki's tongue slides against Thor's, slick heat, and Thor moans into his brother's mouth. Arousal aches between his thighs, his cock hardening and greedy for friction. He is a tightly wound maelstrom of need, and Loki has yet to pull away.
Thor growls, breaking the kiss when he rolls them, reversing their positions and putting Loki on his back. Loki's hair spills across the dark, smooth stone of the floor, and he watches Thor with glittering eyes, an expression Thor cannot hope to read.
Thor wants to reclaim his brother's mouth; he wants to put Loki's mouth to different purpose entirely. He is frozen in place, overwhelmed with wanting too many things at once. Loki must sense his hesitation, because a look that is more sneer than smile twists across his face.
"Trouble deciding how you would have me?" Loki taunts in a low, sultry voice. "Choose wisely, Thor. This may be your only opportunity."
Instead of prolonging Thor's uncertainty, Loki's words spur him to action. He presses a single kiss to Loki's mouth, deep and quick, and then trails rough kisses down Loki's jaw, eager to taste the line of his throat. Thor's hands work at the complicated buckles of Loki's coat and tunic, and Loki's pulse beats beneath his lips. Thor bites down, sucking a deliberate mark into Loki's throat.
Loki grunts in surprise, and the sound goes straight to Thor's cock. He is rock hard, and any question of how he wants Loki is suddenly irrelevant. He simply wants, and the breathy noises Loki is making beneath him do nothing to calm his ardor.
Thor cannot guess where he finds the patience to divest them both of clothing without unnecessary destruction. Loki helps at last, deft fingers working swiftly at Thor's armor, his tunic, his leggings. And when at last they are both naked, blue-lit by the torchlight, Thor kisses his brother again.
He has never been with a man like this, but he knows in theory what to do. He tries at first to be gentle. Loki's eyes flutter closed when Thor curls his fingers just so. His hips stutter, his lips part on a moan. He is beautiful.
But Thor is impatient, and when he withdraws his fingers he is nearly overcome with his own desperation. He curls one hand around Loki's hip, the other around the base of his own cock as he lines himself up between Loki's thighs.
Loki has fallen silent beneath him, but his eyes are open. There is a challenge in those alarmingly blue depths.
When Thor thrusts in, Loki cries out. They are both of them a chaos of need as Thor ruts deeper, Loki's thighs parting wider as Thor's body presses him down against the hard floor.
Loki's breath is unsteady in Thor's ear, and his fingers grasp tightly at Thor's bicep. Thor trembles as he struggles to hold himself still, giving Loki times to adjust to Thor's length inside him.
But Loki growls against his throat, bites him hard, and says, "I do not need you to be careful." There's anger in the words, and blatant challenge, and Thor does not think. He simply moves, rolling his hips and jostling his cock inside Loki's body. He pulls suddenly, almost entirely out, only to thrust back in again with jarring force. Loki cries out, and Thor cannot decipher the sound for pleasure or pain. But Loki's body is arching to meet him, urging him on, and Thor does not pause. He thrusts again, harder still, fingers pressing bruises into Loki's thighs and hips.
Loki's challenge has woken something base and carnal within him, and Thor is careless with his strength. He takes Loki with a mindless ferocity, his heartbeat a noisy chaos of animal need. He has never had anyone like this—he is always so careful, even at the height of passion—and he loses himself now in Loki's body with unaccustomed abandon.
The rougher Thor's touch, the harder Loki clings to him, and as pleasure mounts in Thor's blood he knows his brother is also close.
When orgasm claims him, it is a furious force, cresting with a bright rush of heat. His skin sings with power as he stills deep in Loki's body. Thor throws his head back on a cry that could be ecstasy or pain, and outside there is the close-by echo of thunder.
Loki arches beneath him, silent in his release, eyes distant as he clings to Thor through the rush of orgasm.
Thor cannot help but stare after; he cannot make himself retreat and consider his actions. He keeps Loki pinned to the floor, marveling at the beauty in his brother's sated face.
"You have to leave eventually," Loki says, though there's only a fraction of the usual venom in his words.
"Not yet." Thor feels he should have something to say. What they just did seems momentous, like something that bears discussing. Something vital has shifted in Thor's life, past and present, and his chest is a mess of confused emotion. He does not know what to think. Once upon a time he would simply have asked Loki what it means.
But for all the baseless hope he will always harbor, Thor knows he cannot trust Loki. And despite what they've done together—despite the revelation, that Thor does not know himself as well as he thought—he can conjure nothing to say.
Loki gives him a long, considering look, and finally sighs.
"Get off me, idiot. I'll see if I can't find us some food."
And despite all the centuries of pain and betrayal and rage between them, Thor smiles.