Thor thinks he may vomit from nerves. His stomach is in absolute knots and has been since last night. He hasn't slept, and now he can't even eat. Plates of cheese and fruit and bread lay before him, but Thor can't even look at them. He watches his reflection as the servants tend to him, combing his hair and trimming his beard. His mother holds a red cloak, gold emblazoned on the seams, and smiles warmly at him.
"Do not be nervous, my darling."
"I am not nervous," Thor says, embarrassed that she would say such a thing in front of the servants.
Frigga hands the cloak off and the servants drape Thor in it, wrapping it once around his neck and shoulders before smoothing it down. It falls nearly to his ankles, and Thor won't deny it makes him look very handsome. That doesn't stop the nerves, though. He desperately wishes Odin would call off the wedding. Though he's known of it for some time, he has no desire to go through with it. His mother's hand on his shoulder startles him.
"You will be a fine husband," Frigga says. "Your father and I are very proud."
Thor scowls. "Father is only proud because this is what he wants."
His mother dismisses the servants shortly after that. They scurry out, each pausing to bow before shutting the door to Thor's chambers. Once they've left, Frigga spins Thor around so he faces her, both hands on his shoulders.
"This is your duty," she says. "I know it is hard, my darling, but it is for the good of our realm."
Thor knows that, he does, but it doesn't stop it from being hard. Jötun are not an ugly people by any means, but they are giants. And they are cold. Thor doesn't see how anyone can expect him to marry one. He doesn't say this, but his mother seems to sense it anyway.
"Did you know that your father and I's marriage was arranged?"
Thor stares at her. He's never heard this before.
"You are lying," he says.
"I would never." Frigga strokes Thor's hair, fixing one of the plaits. "I thought he was boring at first, but in time I grew to love him very much. You must have faith in this. Can you do that, for me?"
Thor nods and leans down to kiss his mother's cheek. He grew taller than her some years ago, but it still feels strange to him. He is no child, no, he has long since entered adulthood. He knew this day would come. A sense of bravery enters him then, and he straightens, trying to make himself ready to face this. Thor will make his kingdom proud.
Frigga extends a hand and Thor takes it so that they may walk out together.
It is time.
The marriage itself is a symbol of peace between Jötunheim and Asgard. The two realms have long been at war but this union is a mark of new times, peace times. Thor just wishes there were another way. He has never even seen his betrothed before, he only knows his name: Loki. He is King Laufey's second son, and he is to be Thor's until their death, and Thor his. Thor has spent nights trying to imagine him, but only sees reflections of Laufey, tall and mean-faced.
He knows the marriage is worse for Jötunheim. Laufey has two sons, but Odin only has one, and therefore cannot give one away without losing his heir. Laufey's second born is unlucky in this, but Thor hasn’t thought much of his luck, only of his own.
Thor stands next to Odin in the ceremonial hall and waits. He can hear the march of Laufey outside, large feet like thunder on the grounds. Each step makes Thor's heart pound in his chest and his hands sweat further. He holds them at his front, folded, and tries to look unafraid.
The guards open the doors and Thor sees Laufey enter, always taller than he remembers. He and his father bow out of respect. Thor does not see anyone with him, and that makes him wonder. Perhaps his betrothed is against this as well…the thought had honestly not occurred to Thor before. He had only been worried about himself. But then Laufey steps to the side and Thor sees Loki.
This cannot be right. Thor turns to Odin, slack-jawed, but his father doesn't seem surprised at all. Thor doesn't understand. Loki looks to be no more than a child by Jötun standards, though his face and build say otherwise. He's no taller than Thor is.
And he is beautiful. Thor doesn't understand. He's never actually seen another Jötun besides Laufey before, only relied on stories to piece together would he thought the Jötnar looked like. He's embarrassed to have been so mistaken.
Loki has black hair that reaches down his back, one section of it tied into a neat braid that falls over his front. Thor cannot ever recall having heard of a Jötun with hair before, let alone being so short. Loki has the horns of a Jötun though: they curl up and are decorated with gold twine. The rest of him is draped in furs, heavy for Asgard's climate, but certainly appropriate for his home. His loincloth is a deep red that matches the color of Thor’s cloak exactly. He looks like absolutely beautiful, and Thor doesn't understand.
"King Laufey," Odin says, "I welcome you into our halls."
"Allfather," Laufey says. "May I present my youngest son, Loki of Jötunheim."
Loki bows, eyes level but never making contact with Thor or Odin. His face is tight with anger, Thor realizes.
"Prince Loki, you are most welcome here." Odin gestures around the hall. "We have prepared everything for your arrival."
"My lord," Loki says, and his voice is soft and fits him very much.
"Our laws forbid us from watching the ceremony." Laufey puts a hand Loki's shoulder. "Once I leave here, Loki will no longer be Jötun."
Thor hadn't been aware of this. For the first time, he feels bad for Loki. He isn't the one who is being taken from his home, never to return. He isn't the one losing his family.
Laufey removes his hand from Loki's shoulder, and that's when Loki's mask falters. He grabs for Laufey's hand, desperate, and holds it with his own.
"Father, please," he says.
Thor doesn't know what he expected, but it wasn't this. Laufey squeezes Loki's hand and soothes him much the way Frigga soothed Thor earlier, a gentle hand on his head. Thor had expected cruelty from the Jötun, not kindness. Laufey leans to Loki's level.
"Shh," he says. "It is all right."
"You cannot leave me here," Loki says.
"You will be strong, my little moon." Laufey strokes Loki's braid. "You will be strong for me, and for your brother. You must do this."
Loki's shoulders drop. His hands remain fists by his side, but he has conceded. Laufey whispers something into his ear that Thor cannot hear, and then he stands again, face placid. There is one final bow before he is gone from the halls, and then Loki is alone. At first, he doesn't turn. He watches the closed doors his father left by as if he expects him to return. Eventually, he turns, the mask of indifference back in place. He steps onto the platform to join Thor and Odin.
"My lords," he says. "I am ready."
When Thor takes Loki's hand, it is cool.
There is a banquet. Despite the ceremony being over, Thor still can't seem to stomach much food. He is hyper aware of Loki seated next to him, the furs removed, only covered by that loin cloth. Sometimes he strokes absently at his braid and Thor watches him, catching sight of dark nipples. Then he forces himself to look away.
They have not spoken a word to each other.
Many nights ago, Thor dreamed he married a giant that devoured him. Now he is unsure whether or not he is dreaming again, but for the first time, truly hopes he isn't.
Once the night ends and the guests begin to leave, Thor realizes that he and Loki are going to be alone. Something pools in his stomach, but Thor isn't sure it is dread this time. He watches the crowd dissipate and his mouth goes dry. He turns to Loki, but he isn't reacting to it at all. A beat passes before Thor swallows his nerves and speaks.
"Shall we retire to our chambers?"
"As you wish," Loki says.
Special chambers have been prepared for them. The bed is bigger and fitted with the finest sheets, and a private bath chamber connects to it. The room itself is impressive, but Thor can hardly admire it when his heart is jumping into his throat. He wishes Loki would say or do something to let him know he feels the same, but he remains stone faced, eyes focused anywhere but on Thor.
Thor shuts the chamber door and thinks they may finally speak, but Loki walks away from him. He circles the bed, uncurling the twine from his horns and placing them on the table beside it. Even without the decoration, the horns are a beautiful sight. Loki himself is still a beautiful sight, eyes blood red and piercing. Then Loki pulls the tie of his loincloth and the garment falls away.
Thor makes a stupid sound in the back of his mouth. Loki stands naked, beautiful and emotionless. He goes to lay on the bed, stretching his body straight and just waits. Thor doesn't move.
Minutes later, Loki huffs, impatient, and rolls over to face Thor.
"What are you waiting for?" he asks.
"Are we not to consummate the union? Is this not the tradition in Asgard?" Loki moves again so that he's lying on his stomach. "Get it over with so that I may sleep. The journey was long and I am exhausted."
His words startle Thor. Part of him is appalled, and another more shameful part of him as actually aroused at the idea of taking him. He walks to the bed, hesitating before deciding to sit. Thor reaches out to touch Loki but then thinks better of it.
"Loki, I will not take anything from you unless you ask it of me."
At that, Loki rolls sharply and pins Thor down onto the bed. He bares his teeth, eyes seeming to glow with anger.
"What game is this, Odinson? Am I to be made a fool?"
"No," Thor says. "There is no game."
Loki watches him, his breathing harsh, dangerous and somehow more beautiful in his anger. Thor touches his arm.
"I mean it," he says. "I have no desire to make you a fool."
The anger falls from Loki’s face quickly. He is still searching Thor's face when he seems to realize that he is naked. Loki pushes off of Thor quickly, tugging up the bedding so that he can cover himself with it. He sits on the edge of the bed, back to Thor. They don't speak. Thor sits up and folds his arms over his knees. He's still draped in his cloak so he removes it, shifting to pull it over his head before tossing it onto the floor.
"I did not expect you to be so honorable," Loki says, and though his words are kind, his voice is mocking.
"I did not expect you to be so beautiful," Thor says. "So we are both surprised, then."
Loki scoffs. "Are your words meant to woo me?"
Thor stares at Loki’s back. It's tense, but he can see the designs in his skin, intricate patterns that etch and swirl over his whole body. He wonders if they are the same for all Jötun.
"They mean nothing unless you want them to." Thor removes his vambraces. "I thought you would be grateful I did not treat you as a prize to be had."
"Grateful," Loki says, and then he laughs. "Grateful for what—your mercy? I would be grateful for your death so that I may return home."
Thor reaches across the bed and grabs Loki's wrist. It shocks Loki, whose eyes widen. Thor may still be young but he is not weak, and he isn't afraid to show that to Loki.
"I asked for this no more than you," he says. "But I am fulfilling my duties to my people, as are you. Your attempts to treat me ill will be of no benefit to either of us."
Loki's shock shifts to confusion, and that saddens Thor. He probably expected to be thrown to the bed and treated as an object. It is not an uncommon practice, but certainly no practice Thor would ever take part in, and needs Loki to know that. Loki tests his grip in Thor's hold, pulling slightly, but Thor doesn't relent. This makes Loki grin, though Thor has no idea why.
"Let me go, husband," he says.
Thor does. Loki pulls away and rubs at his wrist, grin gone. Thor stands and removes the rest of his armor, purposely turning away from Loki and looking elsewhere. When he's finished he turns again. Loki is now wrapped in the bedding and lying on his side. He looks far less hostile.
"You may join me," he says when Thor doesn't move. "I will not bite."
"It is not your bite I am afraid of."
But Thor moves to the bed anyway. He slips under the bedding, aware of Loki's body next to his. Neither of them asked for this. Thor glances at Loki and catches him studying him like he's trying to solve him. He wonders if it will be like this always—Loki bitter and defensive. Frigga's words from earlier seem distant and impossible. How could they grow to love each other if Loki can't stand him? Eventually, Loki turns and puts his back to Thor once more. Thor sighs loudly, but it gets no response. Then he turns as well, and the two sleep with their backs to one another.