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XVII

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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.

"I—"

"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.

Chapter Text

Three days have passed since the wedding, and Loki has not left their chambers since. The morning after, breakfast had been delivered to them in bed, and they ate in silence. Thor tried speaking, but he was met with no response. Once he finished eating, Loki slipped away to the bath without a word. It became apparent after an hour that he wasn't planning on coming out, so Thor left the room, making sure he shut the door loud enough for Loki to hear. He wasn't a fool. Loki was waiting to be alone, so Thor let him be.

He thought it would stop after a few days, but by the third, Thor's patience has run thin. 

"Will Loki not be joining us for dinner again?" Odin asks.

Thor glances at the empty seat next to him. 

"No," he says, and takes a furious bite of his meal. "He will not leave our chambers. It is strange." 

"Indeed," Odin says. 

Frigga looks between them both, a frown present on her face. 

"Or perhaps he is uncomfortable. You forget this realm is foreign to him. He must be frightened."

Frightened is not the word Thor would use, not by a long shot. Loki has been nothing but cold and distant to him since his arrival. Thor shrugs and finishes his meal, making sure to collect a plate to bring back to Loki. It makes sense, of course, that Loki would be uncomfortable, but he has a duty to uphold. They both do. Thor takes the plate back to their chambers, balancing it on one hand so that he can nudge the door open.

Loki is on the bed with a book in his lap. He had brought few things with him from Jötunheim—just a book of spells and some spare clothing. Thor sets the plate down and Loki finally acknowledges him. He stands, and Thor can see all the lean muscle he has on him.

"Would you not be comfortable in more clothing?" 

Loki begins to pick the plate apart and says, "I will not cover myself to make you more at ease." 

"That is not what I meant." Thor thins his lips, frustrated. "I just wondered—never mind, then." 

Five minutes into Loki eating, Thor loses his patience entirely.

"Surely you won't be this way for eternity," he says. "You cannot spend the rest of your life in here, Loki. You have to leave sometime."

Loki looks up at him through his lashes, one corner of his mouth threatening to tug upward into a cruel smirk. But behind that, somewhere in his eyes, Thor thinks he can see what his mother mentioned. Fear. Or perhaps he just wants to.

"Is that a challenge, husband?" 

He says the word husband with such disdain and it makes Thor cringe. 

"No," he says. "A plea. Walk with me around the grounds for a few minutes."

Loki's eyes flicker to the door as if he is considering it, but ultimately, he just shakes his head and takes another bite of meat from the plate. In his frustration, Thor forgets to hold his tongue.

"Would you rather I throw you out there," he says, and regrets it immediately when Loki's eyes flash. 

"You would be dead before you touched me." 

Loki's voice is icy, and Thor truly thinks frost may come with his next breath. This is bringing them no closer together. All Thor is doing is pushing Loki further away. But it isn't as if Loki is helping the situation. He simply refuses anything Thor offers him, and it's maddening. 

"I am sorry," Thor says, after a few moments of silence. "I did not mean that." 

His apology makes Loki frown, and he doesn't understand why. Loki pushes the plate aside and stands. Thor already knows where he's going. The bath chamber is his only form of solitude when Thor is there. It's not a particularly large area, but that doesn't seem to bother Loki at all. He's gone in there every day since the wedding to hide, and Thor hasn't tried to stop him, or even thought to try. This time, he almost does. The request sits heavy on his tongue and Thor could say it, should say it, but he doesn't. Loki shuts the door and Thor knows he won't be coming out.

"Childish," he says, and hopes that Loki hears him only so that he'll come out. 

Even though he's as cold as his realm, Thor finds he quite enjoys Loki. It isn't only that he's beautiful in a way Thor hadn't known existed, but that he holds himself in such high regard. Thor wants to unravel him, wants to unlock every secret he's hiding away. Loki barely speaks to him, but Thor already thinks he's the most fascinating being he's ever met. And he is Thor's husband. They will be with each other for eternity, and it may be a happy eternity, if only Loki would stop being so stubborn.

Thor undresses and settles into bed, well aware that Loki won't leave the bath chamber until he's asleep. On Loki's side of the bed sits his spell book. Curious, Thor picks it up. It's heavier than he anticipated, and feels centuries old. Thor leafs through it, disappointed to find he can't read the language it's in, a very old, dead form of Elvish. He hasn't seen Loki perform much magic, just simple spells to snuff the lights or clear the bed. He wonders just how powerful he really is. The thought is exciting to him. Power, after all, is another form of beauty as far as Thor is concerned. He sets the book back and wonders how many books Loki had to leave behind. 

That's when the idea hits him. Thor knows it would be useless to try and talk Loki into it tonight, but tomorrow night will be the perfect opportunity. He listens to quiet of the room, the barely perceptible sounds of Loki in the bath, and smiles to himself. 

-- 

The next evening, their routine remains much the same. Loki doesn't leave the room, so Thor brings him back food. After he's finished eating, Loki stands like he's going to retreat to the bath, and that's when Thor pounces. 

"Wait," he says. "Not tonight."

Loki stills, but he looks skeptical, so Thor adds, "Please."

Remarkably, Loki listens. He doesn't go to the bath, but he also doesn't move at all. He stands in place, rooted like a tree, and tries to read Thor's next move. Thor smiles to put him at ease, but that only serves to make Loki more suspicious.

"What is this?"

Thor goes to the door of their chamber and opens it, beckoning Loki forward. 

"Come, Loki. I want to show you something."

Loki bristles. "I have no desire—"

"It will take but a moment," Thor says. "If you dislike it, you may return. You have my word." 

Loki watches the open door with caution, but he knows enough of Thor by now to know he keeps his word. The curiosity must be killing him, to have an entire palace at his disposal yet to have not explored it at all. Loki steps forward, slowly at first, but finally he joins Thor in the doorway, stance already defensive.

"This had better be worth my time," he says.

Thor says, "Trust me."

He takes Loki into the halls. This late at night, hardly anyone is around, which is exactly what Thor was counting on. He knows that too many people will only spook Loki. Many of the Æsir have never seen a Jötun in person, especially not one such as Loki, and Thor knows that Loki would not take kindly to stares. They take a staircase downwards, descending in a spiral onto another floor that stretches out among marble pillars. Their footsteps echo. Murals of fallen warriors surround them. Thor glances behind and sees Loki staring with interest, head craning to get a better look. He appears ever so slightly more at ease, but still on guard. They descend another floor and finally come to their destination: large double-doors made of wood. Thor nods to them to show Loki they've arrived.

"You wished to show me doors, then?" Loki says, crossing his arms. "I must say they aren't very impressive."

"I was not aware Jötun were so well versed in sarcasm." Thor grabs the brass handles and pulls. "This is what I wanted to show you."

He tugs the doors open and they creak loudly before giving way and opening into the library. Thor will admit to not having been in there for some time—he isn't a big fan of reading, but it's obvious that Loki is, and the library is massive. It encompasses two floors and has endless hallways. It would not be difficult to become lost, and Thor actually has before.

To his credit, Loki does not gasp, but his mouth drops open and his eyes widen. He is impressed, and that makes Thor grin. He gestures for Loki to step inside. Loki does. Almost immediately, he becomes like a different being. He runs his fingers over the spines of books as he passes as if he's reading them with his hands, speaking to them through a different means. Thor follows, as entranced by Loki as he is by the books. Even without having ever been there before, Loki seems to know where he's going. He twists and winds through the rows of books until he reaches a section on ancient magic. Loki picks a book from the shelf at random and flips through it, eyes running wild to read the words within. He's pleased. Thor beams next to him, and once Loki sees this, he snaps the book shut.

"What is your play?"

"There is no play," Thor says. "You are of Asgard now, Loki, you have free reign of this library, provided you choose to ever leave our room."

Loki watches him, chin tilted upward.

"And what do you ask of me in return?"

"I ask nothing." He is so untrusting. It drives Thor mad. "Though perhaps you would try to join us for meals sometime."

Loki picks another book from the shelf, seemingly satisfied with Thor's response. Many of the books are dusty from disuse, but he doesn't seem to mind in the least.

"I will consider your proposal," Loki says, nose still in the book.

As far as Thor is concerned, this is a victory. He watches Loki settle in the corner with a book, legs crossed as he sits against the shelves. Thor keeps his distance but mimics Loki's position, glancing up at the tower of books, the moonlight creeping in through the high windows. He used to hide in this library when he was avoiding father, but he never took the time to appreciate how wonderful it truly is. Loki's voice grabs his attention.

"You do not have to stay," he says.

"I know," Thor says.

Loki shrugs and lets him be. The library is quiet around them, and Thor realizes how tired he actually is. He watches Loki read for a good hour before he falls asleep.

-- 

He wakes with sore neck and back. It's disorienting for a moment, but then he remembers he fell asleep in the library. Thor blinks awake further and stretches, listening to the bones crack. Loki is in the same position, book open in his lap, only he is asleep as well. Thor stares. He's never seen Loki asleep before. Every time he's woken, Loki has already been awake and gone. Thor decides he looks much calmer like this, face relaxed completely. His eyelids flutter from dreams, chest rising and falling steadily. It seems like it would be a crime to wake him, but Thor knows Loki will probably be more cross if Thor let him sleep like this. He reaches and strokes Loki's shoulder, feeling the cool skin there.

"Loki," he says. "Wake up."

His husband wakes easy, almost elegantly, eyes focusing and refocusing as he comes to. Thor leans away, not wanting to push the boundaries too much, but Loki doesn't seem upset at all. He stretches, toes curling.

"You were here all night."

Thor knows it isn't a question, so he doesn't answer it.

"Would you join me for breakfast?" he asks. 

He is almost certain Loki will say no, which is why he can't keep the surprised look off his face when Loki says yes.

-- 

Loki joins Thor and his parents for breakfast as well as dinner. He is infinitely more polite to them than he is to Thor, referring to Odin still as my lord, and Frigga as my lady. Loki even kisses her hand at the end of dinner, which Frigga seems ludicrously pleased by. After, Thor takes him back to the library. He is sure Loki knows the way himself, he's certainly clever enough, but Thor gets the feeling Loki isn't comfortable going on his own, and so he takes him. Loki doesn't seem to mind. He stays for hours and reads through old books, murmuring things to himself that Thor can't understand before becoming so tired he can't keep his eyes open. Then they walk back together, climb into bed together, and sleep. Thor still hasn't touched him, though when he looks at the long untouched expanse of Loki's back, he recognizes the feeling that settles in his groin as want.

For his part, Loki has been the least hostile in the past twenty-four hours than all the time Thor has known him. He seems to trust Thor now, at least in part.

The next night, things go much the same way, though this time Loki takes a book back from the library with him. Thor doesn't even notice until they've returned and Loki begins reading it again. He doesn't understand where Loki would have hidden it, given he wears very little clothing.

"Those aren't to be removed from the library," he says, though his tone has no anger in it.

Thor strips off his tunic, pulls his hair back into a loose ponytail and rubs the sweat from his neck. It's a particularly humid night in Asgard, though Loki doesn't seem to be affected by it. 

"Who will know? No one has read this text in a century." 

Loki blows dust from the pages to prove his point. 

Thor hums. "Just be sure it is returned." 

"Of course, husband," Loki says.

Thor joins him in bed, laying on top of the bedding and huffing. He took a cool bath earlier but its effect has worn off. The heat is uncomfortable, nearly suffocating. Thor shifts on the bed, trying to find a colder area of the bedding. Loki sets his book down and watches Thor with narrowed eyes.

"Why are you shuffling about like a worm?" he asks.

Thor huffs again. "It is hot as Hel in here. Can you not feel it?" 

"No," Loki says. "Stop that."

"I cannot." Thor turns and gives him a suffering look. "Do you have a spell to cool the weather?"

Loki lets out a laugh like a bark but does not answer, which makes Thor think that he doesn't know how. He shuts his eyes and tries to think of other things, like cool mead or the very surface of Jötunheim itself. It doesn't help much. Nights like this, Thor resigns himself to suffering until he sleeps. Then something cold grabs his wrist, and Thor realizes it's Loki's hand. He jolts, surprised, eyes opening. Before he can say anything, Loki speaks.

"Do not move," he says.

Thor frowns. "What is this?"

"You look utterly pathetic."

Loki scoots closer to him and presses his bare front against Thor's. The coolness of his skin makes Thor shiver, but it's an absolute relief from the humid air of the night. Thor struggles to stop his heartbeat from increasing, but he can't help it. He hasn't been this close to Loki since the night of their wedding, and it was not for any reason like this.

"Loki—"

"Do not speak," Loki says. "Or I will leave."

It occurs to Thor all at once what this is—this is Loki's thank you. For someone so talented with words, Loki has an awfully roundabout way of speaking. Thor wants to tell him that he doesn't have to do this, but Loki relaxes into him as if Thor's warmth is comforting to him. He smells like the first snowfall of winter, crisp and white. Thor just keeps reminding himself to focus on his breathing and not the angles and skin of Loki pressing against him. Two days ago, he doesn't think Loki would have touched him even by accident, but now he's acting as Thor's own personal cooling system. Thor gets daring and drapes an arm over Loki, and he doesn't even seem to mind. He just sighs and his breath is even cooler on Thor's neck. Maybe, just maybe, Loki is starting like him.

Chapter Text

He barely blocks Sif's attack from the right. Thor rolls away from her fist and jumps back to his feet. They never use weapons in these fights, just their fists. Sif punches again, and this time she connects with Thor's jaw. He stumbles back and laughs, more embarrassed than hurt. Sif rolls her eyes.

"You're slow today," she says. "You're distracted." 

She doesn't have to say by what. Loki is in the shade watching him, and Thor has been all too aware of that. He wants to impress him, but so far he's not doing a good job of it. Thor glances to the corner were Loki stares, very much unimpressed. Slowly but surely, he's been venturing from their chambers more. First he would only go to the library and the dining hall, but now he goes just about anywhere he pleases. He also never goes anywhere without Thor from what he can tell. Wisely, Thor says nothing about that.

Sif throws Thor a towel to dry his face and they sit together to catch their breath. 

"Are you all right?" Sif asks, a whisper.

"What do you mean?" 

"I mean, with your husba—with Loki. Things are okay?" 

Thor rubs the sweat from his face.

"They are good," he says.

Sif leans forward to steal a glance at Loki, who hasn't left his spot. They met the previous day in the hall and got along better than Thor had anticipated. Loki was polite, though almost too much so, and if Sif noticed, she says nothing about it.

"He's quite small, for a Jötun," she says. "Why?"

"I do not know." Thor takes a sip of water from the jug and passes it to Sif. "I have not asked."

"No?" Sif grins and passes the jug back. "Do you not talk at all?"

Her innuendo does not go over Thor's head. He blushes and shoves her lightly before standing. Truth is he and Loki haven't even kissed. He hasn't seen Loki naked since the first night of their marriage. If anyone found out, they'd laugh at him, but Thor isn't going to force Loki into something just to keep from being ridiculed. He can't read Loki, that's the biggest problem. Even though Loki snarls at him less and even allows Thor to touch him, Thor can't tell if he would welcome a kiss, or react sourly. He isn't ready to risk it yet.

"You've been with the Warriors Three too much," Thor says.

"Forgive me," she says. "I just wanted to make sure you are all right. He looked ready to slit your throat the other day." 

Thor laughs because she's possibly right, but also because that's mostly just Loki's face.

"Loki is temperamental, but he finds my company agreeable." Thor stands and hands the water to Sif. "I shall see you, Sif."

"Aye," she says.

Thor walks over to Loki, a bounce in his step and a smile on his face. Loki stands to meet him, hands folded behind his back. He looks amused.

"A valiant effort, husband. I did not realize you would bested by a woman so easily."

"Oh hold your tongue," Thor says, still smiling. "I was distracted."

"Whatever by?"

Thor answers Loki's question with a question: "Are you trained to fight, Loki?"

"I can spar, if that is what you mean, but my talents lie more in magic."

Loki flexes his fingers unconsciously. They're long and slender, almost delicate looking, but Thor knows the power they could call forth. He wants to watch Loki do magic, real magic. He wants to see the look in Loki's eyes when he conjures magic. Until very recently, Thor had thought the Jötun true beasts, merciless and cruel. He's embarrassed to admit how wrong he's been.

They walk from the training grounds into the palace together. Guards line the walls, and many of them stare at Loki as he passes, but Loki ignores them. Thor wishes they wouldn't do that. The Jötun were Asgard's enemies once, but no longer. He shifts closer to Loki and fixes each guard with a look, daring them to keep staring. They look away. If Loki has noticed their stares, he does a good job of ignoring them. He holds himself like a prince should, proud and somewhat arrogant. Thor thinks part of it is a front. He wants to prove that he's stronger than anyone here so they won't look down on him.

Loki is careful not to touch Thor in public, but once they are in the privacy of their chambers, he runs his hands down Thor's bare arms. He's taken to doing it ever since the humid night he cooled Thor off. It isn't a sexual touch, just curious. Loki's cool skin makes Thor shiver and his flesh prickle.

"You are very warm," Loki tells him. 

"Well…yes, I suppose I am." Thor watches Loki's fingers on his skin, and a thought occurs to him. "Were you not expecting it?"

Loki shakes his head.

"I have never felt skin like this before. I cannot yet tell if I enjoy it or find it repulsive." 

Thor can't tell if he should be offended or not by that statement. He laughs softly, enjoying Loki's touch either way.

"I am inclined to think you are starting to take a liking to me," he says.

"Do not flatter yourself," Loki says, but does not stop touching him. 

They are interrupted by a knock on the door. Loki pulls away immediately and takes a step backwards to put space between them as if it would be shameful for him to be caught touching his own husband. Thor opens the door and a servant bows. 

"My Lords," he says. "The Allfather requests your presence in the throne room."

Thor tells him they'll be right there. 

He shuts the door and sets about changing from his sweaty clothes. He doesn't see the shift in Loki's expression until he's changed—Loki looks concerned, almost nervous. Thor cocks his head.

"What's wrong?"

"Why does your father wish to see us?" 

Thor shrugs. There's nothing odd about Odin wanting to see them. He says as much.

"I do not trust him," Loki says.

"You trust me," Thor says.

"I never said such a thing."

Loki brushes past Thor and magicks the door open, pausing to let Thor catch up with him. He's cross. Thor doesn't understand why, as he rarely understand most things with Loki. His moods are hot and cold, perhaps just something Thor has to get used to. They walk to the throne room together but Loki stays slightly in front. His hair is done in a long single braid and Thor watches swish across his back, inky black and shiny. He remembers how smooth it felt when he touched it the night Loki allowed Thor to hold him.

Odin welcomes them with a bow, waving them both up the steps of the throne. He stands close to Loki but doesn't touch him. Odin, though he is stubborn in many ways, can never be called a fool. He is more than aware of what Loki thinks of the Æsir, how he doesn't trust them. No wise king would push something before it's ready to move. He smiles at Loki.

"Loki, you seem to be growing more accustomed to our ways. I am pleased to see this. Thor treats you well?" 

"Yes, Allfather. He is most kind." 

Loki is so formal and cordial with Odin and Frigga. On one hand, Thor thinks it's charming, but on the other hand, he knows it's because Loki doesn't trust them. 

"Excellent," Odin says. "The queen and I have prepared something for you both. Think of it as a marriage present."

That gets Thor's attention. Even Loki looks curious beside him.

"What is it?" Thor asks. 

"A trip," Odin says. "To Alfheim."

-- 

Loki is oddly quiet the rest of the day. Back in their chambers, he slips away to the bath, door shut behind him. Thor frowns. It would be much easier if Loki would just tell him when things were bothering him and what was bothering him. But he seems to prefer this way. Thor sits on the bed and waits him out. Fifteen minutes later, he gets too restless. They have been making progress, and he'll be damned if he's going to let it all go to waste now. Thor gets up and stomps toward the bath chamber. He doesn't even bother to knock, just throws the door open.

"Thor!" 

Loki makes a noise like squawk and ducks further into the bathwater. His hair floats around him in the clear water, his body somehow more blue underneath it. Thor ignores his protests and takes a seat on the edge of the tub. 

"Could this not wait," Loki says through his teeth. 

"You are upset, and I wish to know why." 

Thor stares straight at him, not angry, but firm. Loki stares back, and for a few minutes they are in a staring contest, until Loki finally sighs, eyes rolling. He pushes some of his wet hair off his shoulder. 

"You would not understand." 

"You cannot know that," Thor says. "Now tell me…please." 

Loki stares at his knees through the water, but he speaks: "Alfheim is a realm for the Æsir, a paradise. How kindly do you think they'll take to me?" 

Thor frowns. This is yet another thing he hadn't given thought to, but Loki is right. Alfheim is home to the Light Elves, a place for higher gods. It's quite possible no Jötun has ever set foot there. The reputation of Jötunheim wasn't only soured in Asgard, but the other realms as well. But this is different, they are in a time of peace. All the realms know of the alliance between Jötunheim and Asgard. Thor says as much. 

Loki makes a tsk noise.

"It must be nice to be so optimistic," he says.

"Loki—"

"Just because you are my husband does not mean they will accept me." Loki runs a hand over his wet skin. "Not everyone is as…fool-hearted as you." 

Thor watches the path of Loki's hand over his skin, the way it shines from the water. Fool-hearted. Loki too often speaks in riddles, but he may have a point. Thor sees him as more than what others may. It would naïve to think otherwise. 

"If you really do not wish to go, then we won't," Thor says.

Loki's face twists. 

"No, we must. Refusing a gift from the Allfather would be an insult."

Loki reaches down and pulls the drain from the tub before standing. Thor forces himself to glance elsewhere, heat rising to his cheeks. His husband steps from the tub, grabbing for the towel on the rack and wrapping it around himself. His hair drips steadily onto the floor. Loki twists it and squeezes, and then shakes lightly, droplets of water spraying onto Thor. 

"We will go to Alfheim," he says. "I am simply warning you now, it will not be pleasant."

Thor wants very much for that not to be true.

"We shall see," he says.

--

Alfheim truly is a paradise. Thor hasn't been in nearly an age, so when he and Loki arrive, he's almost as taken aback as Loki is. The temperature here is much milder, a light breeze always blowing from the south. Loki is covered in one of Thor's old cloaks, hood pulled up like he's trying to hide his appearance. They walk together into the halls of the Light Elves. People do stare, but it's mostly because they've been informed of Thor and his new husband's arrival. Elves and Æsir alike are watching Loki, most with awed faces. A few look confused. Thor steps closer to Loki, not anticipating anything, but because it makes him feel better. 

A female elf greets them at the doors and bows. 

"My Lords," she says. "I am Vaalea. We would invite you to the pools." 

"Aye." Thor motions for her to lead the way. "We accept." 

Vaalea opens the doors into a larger hall, one that Thor knows leads to the pools. He turns and sees Loki staring with interest. Vaalea leads them, her hair a softer gold than Thor's and reaching past her lowers back. Her steps are so light Thor can't hear them at all. Loki leans in to whisper to him, eyes on Vaalea. 

"What are these pools?" he asks. 

"You will see." 

They reach another set of doors and Vaalea pushes them open. The light is disconcerting for a moment, but once his eyes adjust, it becomes most pleasant. The pools are within the halls of the Light Elves, surrounded by marble walls but without ceilings. The water of the pools is a deep blue edged with flowers. People lounge by them, some in the water, others on the marble benches set beside them.

"Oh," Loki says, slightly breathless. 

Thor smiles. "I told you." 

Vaalea bows and leaves them to get refreshments. It's Loki who steps into the area first, walking through the grass and searching for unoccupied pool. He finds one near the edge, and sits on the bench. Thor follows, undressing as he does so. The pools of Alfheim are said to possess healing properties. Those who soak in them for thirty minutes are rejuvenated and given better health. Thor explains this to Loki, who watches the pool with feigned disinterested, bare feet grazing the flowers. 

"It is the most refreshing thing I have ever experience," Thor says. 

He jumps into the pool in just his undergarments, wading through the water. Loki watches, but he remains cloaked. Thor holds a hand out. 

"Will you not undress?" 

"I'd rather not." 

"You seem to have no problem doing so in front of me." 

Thor says it with a smile, but Loki regards him seriously. 

"That is different," he says. "You forget these people were my enemy once." 

"But no longer. Come, Loki, you are with me now, understand?" Thor motions again for him to join. "It is all right. No one will harm you with me."

Loki still hesitates, and Thor thinks he might spend the whole trip under that cloak. But then he stands, pushing the hood off before unfastening the cloak. It falls to the grass with a sigh. He keeps his loincloth in place but steps into the pool, ducking once under the surface to wet his hair. The pools are shallow enough that their feet still touch the ground, and Loki wades his way over to Thor, who pulls him in with one arm. Loki allows this, perhaps because of his trepidation with the elves. He is still cool under the water, side pressed against Thor's. 

"See?" Thor says. 

"Hm." 

And then Loki says nothing else, but actually relaxes against Thor, actually seems to be enjoying himself. 

"It is strangely tranquil," he says. "Not any climate I have ever experienced." 

He's speaking of Jötunheim, of course. Thor's been only a few times, always for battle, and it was never pleasant. He isn't sure it ever could be. The entire realm is wasteland of ice and snow.

"Do you miss Jötunheim?" Thor says. 

Loki goes quiet, and then eventually shrugs. 

"What does it matter? I will never see it again." 

The water ripples around them. Thor watches the ripples expand out and then disappear, the water going still once more. He wants to say it could be different, but he isn't one to make false promises. He knows Loki won't appreciate it anyway. A stray flower float atop the water, colored deep purple. Thor is very aware of Loki pressed against him.

"If circumstances had been different," he says. "If we had met before—"

Vaalea comes back with wine for them. Thor quiets as she sets in the on the bench and then leaves again. By this time, the words sound stupid in his head and he doesn't want to finish, but Loki already knows what he was going to say. 

"You'd desire me anyway?" Loki laughs softly, hand skimming over the surface of the water. "But things are not different." 

"I know. But if—" 

"No one can afford to live on 'ifs'," Loki says. 

He pulls away, and for a moment Thor think he's angered him again. But Loki pours wine into a chalice and then floats back to the Thor and offers him the cup. Thor accepts, almost hesitantly. Half-afraid Loki somehow poisoned the cup. After he drinks, however, Loki takes the chalice back and has a sip himself. He actually seems calm, almost happy. 

"You have a fool's heart," Loki tells him. 

Thor grabs the chalice back. "Well, forgive me, husband."

He sounds offended because he is. Loki laughs in response. It isn't a cruel laugh, not even a soft one, but a genuine laugh that makes his cheeks puff and his eyes crinkle.

"I did not mean it to offend," he says.

"Did you just pay me a compliment?" Thor can't help the grin that splits his face. "I did not realize you were capable."

Loki splashes him with water for that, but Thor thinks it's absolutely worth it. 

-- 

Nightfall finds them in the taverns on the north side. They sit at a table in the corner and drink mead. Or rather, Thor drinks mead. After one sip, Loki decides he detests the drink completely. 

"It tastes like medicine," he says, lip curling.

"What medicine have you had?" 

Thor takes his mug anyway. They spent hours at the pools, mostly in silence, but it wasn't uncomfortable. There was a strange peace in the air that Thor hadn't felt in a while, so he took full advantage of it. Now in the taverns, the peace seems to have followed them. Though Loki watches the other patrons with suspicion, he's far more relaxed than ever. 

An elf drops into the empty seat between them, a half-empty mug in his hand. "Prince Thor."

Loki tenses across from him, and Thor doesn't recognize this elf, but he seems harmless, only a bit drunk.

"Aye," Thor says. "May we help you?"

"We had heard of your marriage here," the elf says, and leans forward some. "I was unsure it was true."

His stature feels heavier somehow, and Thor suddenly isn't sure whether this elf is here as a friend or an enemy. 

"It is." Thor gestures to Loki. "My husband."

Loki doesn't move.

"Ah yes," the elf says. "The Jötun. You are not hard to miss in this realm."

He turns back to Thor immediately, almost purposefully ignoring Loki.

"So then, the Allfather has secured peace." The elf takes a long drink from his mug, foam slipping out the sides and spilling down his mouth into his chin. "Was King Laufey really so willing to give away one of his own?"

"I would hold your tongue if I were you," Thor says. "Loki is of Asgard, now."

"I only meant to congratulate you, my Lord." The elf sets his empty mug down. "For obtaining peace and a Jötun trophy. They may be beasts but I hear they serve well in other areas."

Thor punches him without a second thought. The force of his fist sends the elf backwards out of his chair and onto the floor. Anger floods hot into his veins, and he stands with his fists clenched, seething. 

"You will never speak of him that way again," he says. "Or I will kill you." 

The elf rolls on the floor, drunk and in pain. Thor wants to beat him bloody, but what good what that do? It should be the end of it, but Loki is out of his chair as well, and Thor sees his fingers flex and he knows. He really will kill the elf, Thor has no doubts about that. He moves quickly and grabs Loki's wrists to still him. He can feel the magic surging beneath his skin, a light vibration and steady hum. 

"We must go."

"Release me." Loki's voice is strangely calm. "Let me string him up by his innards." 

"Loki, no. We must go."

Loki growls, blind with his anger, so Thor physically drags him from the room. Loki fights him all the way. They are making a scene and he doesn't care. All he cares about is getting them out of here. Loki was right, he was absolutely right. Perhaps only that elf thought it, or perhaps even more do. They think Loki is Thor's prize. 

Outside, Loki wrestles out of Thor's grasp and spits.

"Did I not tell you?" he says. "Did I not warn you?!"

"I know!" Thor says, and he does not mean to shout but he can't help it.

He looks to the sky, fists still clenched, and calls for Heimdall. 

-- 

True anger on behalf of Loki is something Thor has not experienced before now. Loki's anger follows him down the hall like a dark cloud, silent but ominous. Thor is half-afraid to even look back at him. They have just taken two giant leaps backward. Loki was only just getting comfortable with him, only just accepting their situation and now Thor can feel things slipping back as they were before.

Once they returned to Asgard, Thor brushed past Heimdall without a word, gripping tight to Loki once again to make sure he followed him. They slipped back into the palace without a word, and now here they are, stepping back into their chambers with so much heaviness and anger surrounding them.

Thor is honestly surprised that Loki hasn't hit him yet. He's also surprised at Loki's silence, but he is worried. He can sense it all building up, and soon it's going to explode. Thor shuts the door to their room and watches carefully for Loki's next move. It doesn't take long. As soon as Thor steps toward him, Loki pivots around and his eyes seem bloody.

"You should have let me kill him."

"You know that would have solved nothing," Thor says. "I already struck him down for his words."

Loki rushes toward him stopping only inches for Thor's face so he can scream at him.

"I do not need you to defend me!"

"I know this," Thor says.

Loki jerks back. It's clear he was expecting an argument from Thor, but Thor doesn't want to argue. He's tired of fighting Loki, he's just tired. Except Loki isn't sure what to do without a argument. He snarls instead.

"Stop that. Your pretty words mean nothing."

Loki circles Thor, eyes darker, an anger that Thor recognizes from the first night of their marriage. He isn't sure what to do, so he does nothing yet, just follows Loki with his own eyes. 

"You were supposed to be cruel," Loki says. "I was ready to despise you."

Thor doesn't know how to respond. All he can think to say is, "I'm sorry."

"You're sorry," Loki echoes, and stills.

He looks furious. His hands are balled into fists at his side, so Thor readies himself for the inevitable strike. When it comes, he catches Loki's fist in his hand and holds it there. Thor doesn't want to hurt Loki. He won't.

"Let me go," Loki says.

And then they're struggling. Loki throws a punch with his free hand but Thor blocks that one also, twisting so that Loki's arms are crossed and it's harder for him to break free. That only makes Loki angrier. He kicks, but Thor dodges that as well, so then he bites Thor's forearm, which hurts like hell. Thor grunts but doesn't let go, instead shakes them both to try and get Loki to release. He isn't using his magic, and that's strange. Either he doesn't want to truly hurt Thor, or he's somehow unable to at this moment. That doesn't stop him from struggling like an animal, though. He looks like he's about to head butt, so Thor kicks his legs out from underneath him and Loki yells, startled and seething. The movement sends them to the floor, but also releases Loki's right hand.

Loki finally gets his punch in, right to Thor's eye. It only disorients Thor for a moment. He renews his hold on Loki's wrists, using his advantage in weight to pin him to the floor. They still. Their labored breathing echoes in the room, shaking their frames. Then Loki is back to struggling. He bucks up to throw Thor from him, but Thor barely budges. He can see all of Loki's snow-white teeth, pressed together in his fury.

"Please," Thor says, though he isn't quite sure what for.

And then he can feel Loki's erection against his hip. It surprises him, but it also causes heat to pool in his groin. Without thinking, Thor reaches down and touches it through Loki's loincloth. Loki bucks, eyes wide, desire to struggle born anew.

"What are you doing," he says. "Stop."

Thor watches him with no anger left. 

"Loki—"

"You were supposed to be cruel," Loki says again.

Thor strokes the pulse of Loki's wrist with his thumb. It's beating too fast. 

"I know," he says, and then he kisses him. 

Chapter Text

When Thor was a boy, he told his mother he wanted to marry her.

"Oh my darling," she said, bending to stroke his hair. "You will not feel the same when you are older."

"Yes I will." Thor stretched out his arms for Frigga to pick him up. "I love you. People in love get married."

His mother hauled him into her arms, settling Thor against her bosom. She kissed his temple, smile bright on her face.

"Marriage involves a different kind of love," she said.

Thor held onto the silk of her dress.

"What does that mean?" he said.

"One day my dear, you will understand."

Frigga set him down and adjusted his tunic where it had wrinkled in her arms. She was very beautiful, Thor thought she was the most beautiful being he would ever see in his whole life. He wanted to understand what she meant. He didn't know there was more than one kind of love. Frigga rubbed dirt from Thor's nose with her thumb.

"Go on," she said, and swatted his bottom. "Go play."

Thor giggled, though curiosity kept him rooted.

"Mother! What does that mean?"

"You will know it when it happens to you," Frigga said.

Thor believed her.

 

--

Loki doesn't move under him. He lies still, statuesque, but Thor can feel his heart beating fast. Thor isn't sure what's worse—the stillness of him or the fact that he hasn't responded at all. Too long passes, and then Thor pulls away. Loki is wide-eyed underneath him, hair fanned out around his head. He doesn't look furious anymore, in fact he doesn't look angry at all. There is an air of surprise in his expression, as if Loki hadn't considered this until just now. His eyes drift to Thor's lips, then back up. They don't speak, and it takes Thor a moment to realize that this silence isn't going to be broken by words. He leans back down again.

This time, Loki kisses back. Something inside Thor flutters. His mouth is warmer than Thor anticipated, lips softer. It's a shock to him that Loki isn't resisting, but actually returning the kiss. He doesn't understand, but at this moment, he doesn't have to. Thor pushes his tongue into Loki's mouth and Loki makes a noise in his throat somewhere between surprise and pleasure. It gets Thor hot all over, and suddenly he has too many clothes on, and this isn't going fast enough.

Thor leans back and Loki looks angry, not because Thor is kissing him but because he's stopped. The look disappears once Thor pulls him upright and leads him to the bed. Loki understands then what's happening. He keeps himself pressed very close to Thor, like he can't stand to be pulled away from him right now. Thor doesn't move them onto the bed though, not yet. He searches Loki's eyes, tries to figure out what he's thinking, what he's feeling. He made a promise before, and he means to keep it, despite the lust that grips him tight all over and threatens to drive him crazy.

"What?" Loki says. "Are you shy, now? Is this not what you desired all along?"

Thor blushes and shakes his head. "I told you I did not see you as something to be had, and I meant it. "

"So honorable," Loki says. "You fool heart."

And then he pushes Thor onto the bed and climbs on top of him. Loki is all long limbs and sinewy muscle over him, leaning down to kiss him hard. Thor plants his hands on Loki's hips, thumbs pressing against the bone. He wants Loki underneath him more than anything, so he risks rolling them to switch their positions. Loki grunts but doesn't seem to mind one bit. He grabs at Thor's shoulders, pulls his tunic in a silent demand that Thor is more than willing to oblige. He pulls away just long enough to shed his tunic and then goes back to kissing Loki. Their bodies drag against one another. Thor shivers.

"Remove it," he says.

He doesn't have to say what he's referring to. Loki reaches down and unfastens his loincloth, exposes himself to Thor. Then he fingers the ties on Thor's breeches until they come loose as well. Thor pulls at them to free himself, succeeding only at getting them to his knees before he catches sight of Loki beneath him. He is hard, cock a darker blue and curved upward toward his belly, but where his testicles would be, there's just smooth skin and then the lips of his cunt. Thor stares. It isn't as if he wasn't aware that Jötun were intersex, it's just that this is a part of Loki he has never seen before. He wants to memorize every bit of him. Loki's heel connects with his back.

"Is staring all you are good for, then?" he says. "I would have thought—"

Thor presses a finger against Loki's cunt and he stops talking, inhales deeply instead. He lets his finger drift between the lips and feels the wetness there, wonders if Loki has ever been touched here by anyone but himself. Loki's breathing becomes heavier, thighs tensing and releasing. Thor finally presses in slow, so slow, and with his free hand touches the quivering muscles of Loki's stomach. He wants to say something clever about how Loki's lost his voice or how he doesn't seem to hate him so much anymore, but his voice is gone as well. Something thick sits in his throat. Lust pools almost painfully in his groin. They kiss again. Thor adds a second digit and fucks Loki with his fingers, trying to ease him into what's coming next and just generally enjoying the subtle way Loki's hips push down. He hasn't even touched his cock yet. Loki's kissing gets lazy and distracted, he pants into Thor's mouth and lets him do the work and Thor doesn't mind. Hands come up and grab at Thor's shoulders, kneading the muscle there.

Thor drags his lips against Loki's.

"Have you lain with anyone before?" he asks.

Loki squeezes his shoulders particularly tight.

"Must you ask stupid questions?"

He takes that as a no but doesn't say anything, and also doesn't admit that knowing this makes his cock go even harder. Loki seems to sense it anyway, though, because his heels kicks into Thor's back again. Thor is too enamored to care much.

"Okay," he says, and laughs softly. "Okay."

He slips his fingers out and grabs Loki's thighs, pulls them apart, intentions clear. Loki cants his hips up to meet him, unafraid. Thor expected as much from his husband. He touches his own cock for the first time, half-afraid that if he touched it any earlier he'd come. Pre-come leaks from the head and he slicks it over his cock. Loki watches this intently, though his eyes give nothing away. Thor pulls him closer by the legs, drags him down the mattress a bit, and Loki tries to look annoyed at the display of strength but fails. Perhaps they've been leading up to this all along. Earlier in the night, Thor never would've imagined this, but he's beyond ecstatic that it's happening now. He has wanted this for longer than he realized. He leans in and presses against Loki's entrance, arms braced on either side of him.

"You are not my prize, Loki," he says.

Loki swallows thickly and says, "You have made that very clear from the beginning."

There's no malice in his voice, no wickedness. He means it. Thor kisses him again and then thrusts in.

He's slow about it, he isn't stupid. Loki inhales on the first thrust and doesn't exhale, grip tightening on Thor's shoulders. Thor wants to soothe him, but he knows better, he just waits for Loki to get used to the feeling before pushing in more. It's difficult—Loki is tighter than he's fantasized he would be. Thor's arms shake the further he pushes in. Sweat collects from his temple and threatens to drip onto Loki's stomach. Thor realizes that Loki has yet to breathe out. He reaches down and stroke's Loki's cock, trying to coax him into doing so.

"Remember to breathe," he says.

"Of course I remember," Loki says, and exhales sharply.

Thor's hand does seem to be distracting him, though. When Thor thrusts next, Loki tries to meet it, limbs slowly relaxing. The pain is either subsiding, or Loki is getting better at ignoring it, which is a good thing, because Thor is having trouble holding back. Loki is unlike anything he's ever felt before. The vice grip on his shoulders finally drops, and then Loki is stroking his arms.

"Is this it?" he says.

Thor makes the mistake of looking down at him. Somehow, Loki's managed to keep that shit eating grin upon his face, even though his eyes are blown wide and hazy, lips swollen. Thor grins.

"You are trying to goad me."

He picks up his speed some, moving so that he's on his knees fully, hands slipping to hold Loki at the waist.

"Trying?" Loki says. "I—"

He stops speaking and makes a noise Thor has never heard before, something so raw and open that he thinks he may come right then. Loki looks surprised at his own pleasure, hips stuttering. Thor wants to hear that noise again, he wants to hear it always. There is no need to hold back anymore, and so he doesn't. He tightens his grip on Loki's hips and changes angles, watching the long line of Loki's neck, the tendons there straining. Thor leans in and kisses them. Loki's legs come up to wrap around his waist and then Thor holds nothing back anymore. He drives into Loki, one hand stealing down again to stroke his cock. He wants to see Loki's face when he comes.

It doesn't take long. The combined sensations cause Loki to spill over, come flowing onto his stomach, onto Thor's hand. It's beautiful to see the way his body tightens and then releases, blue as the sky after a storm. Loki pulls him down by the back of the neck and they're kissing again. He whispers into Thor's mouth, almost rambling but still intelligible.

"Come on," he's saying. "Come on, husband."

And Thor does.

--

He could sleep for days, or at least that's how he feels. His body is sore, but it's a pleasant soreness, a peaceful exhaustion. The window has been opened, and a breeze drifts in through it, cooling the sweat on his skin. Loki stands naked at the window, looking out. The sheet is tangled around Thor's leg and he shakes it off.

"Loki," he says.

Loki turns. His hair is a mess, braid half undone. He looks beautiful.

"Come here," Thor says.

Loki steps from the window and climbs back into the bed, walks on his knees to Thor, who then pulls him down on top of him. He looks up into Loki's eyes, searching again for some answer there. Loki looks at him like he's mad for it.

"That was pleasant," he says.

Thor blinks. "Pleasant?"

"Aye." Loki wipes the stray hair from Thor's forehead. "I had expected worse."

Thor isn't sure whether he should be offended or not. He thought after all was said and done, Loki's anger would reignite, but it seems to be extinguished entirely, at least for now. Of all the reactions he had expected from kissing Loki, it was not that. He truly thought Loki hated him. But then, Loki never said he did. In fact, he never said much to Thor about it at all. Maybe, like him, Loki has grown quite fond of him, or maybe in the face of pleasure, he just didn't say no.

"You are staring at my face as if it is a book," Loki says. "I did not take you as one who would overthink, or think at all."

"I thought—"

"Yes, you thought." Loki shifts in his lap, lips still kiss swollen. "Fat load of good it did you."

He slides off Thor and props himself up onto the mattress, running fingers through his hair to undo his braid. Once it's undone, he starts the braid over, lips quirked in concentration.

You were supposed to be cruel.

Thor thinks maybe he understands now. He settles further into bed and watches Loki braid his hair. 

"You are fond of me," he says, once Loki's finished the braid.

Loki reaches for the sheet and pulls it up over himself, face placid again, though Thor can still see traces of his pleasure from earlier. His eyes search Thor's face much the way Thor was searching his before finally looking away.

"Go to sleep," he says.

Thor does, but not before fitting himself to Loki like a puzzle piece, front pressed against his back. Loki makes a grunt at this but does nothing else, and it's a small, wonderful victory.

--

"You should have come to me immediately."

Thor nods, remains silent. Odin is pacing back and forth, hands folded, one eye furrowed. Honestly, Thor hadn't even thought of going to him until that morning. The only thing he'd been concerned about was Loki. Thor glances at his father. He doesn't look particularly angry, more concerned.

"I will have to speak with the high priests on Alfheim and find out the identity of this elf," he says. "You have no idea who he was?"

"A drunk," Thor says. "No one important."

"But you do not know for sure." Odin pauses and runs a hand through the gray of his beard. "If word of this reaches Jötunheim…"

"I do not understand why you are so concerned, father. The elf was at fault."

Odin nods in agreement, but he doesn't look any less troubled. He takes a seat at the table and motions for Thor to join him. Thor does. Loki is still in their chambers. Thor had told him to wait for him while he spoke to his father. He didn't want to risk upsetting anything between them when he told Odin what happened. Loki is still Loki, which means he is still quick to anger. As far as Thor knows, he trusts no one but him, and perhaps not even fully. No matter what happened between them yesterday, Thor must still be wary.

"We are at peace with Jötunheim," Odin says. "The treaties have been signed, the battles fought. Your marriage to Loki is further security of that, but that peace lies solely with Asgard. Jötunheim may not be warring with Alfheim but that does not mean their relationship has been mended. Tensions between them are high, and if Laufey feels this marriage will put his son to harm, he may do something rash."

Thor stares at the table. Every time he talks with his father he becomes of aware of how much he still has to learn before becoming king. Laws may state Loki is no longer of Jötunheim, but he knows all too well that beings are willing to overlook the laws for those they love.

"What shall I do, father?"

"Nothing yet," Odin says. "I shall speak to the high priests first. How is Loki?"

Thor has to fight to keep the blush from filling his cheeks. As far as he knows, Loki is more than okay now.

"He is fine," he says. "He rests now."

"Good." Odin stands. "I will let you know what I find out from Alfheim."

Thor bows and makes his way back to Loki. Anxiety pools in his chest at the thought of repercussions from their incident on Alfheim, but that anxiety quickly disappears when Thor opens the door and sees Loki sitting in bed reading. He hasn't gotten dressed yet. Thor smiles.

"You're still naked."

Loki glances down at himself. "I have bathed if that is what concerns you."

"No," Thor says.

Concern is definitely not the word he would use. Pleased fits better. He shuts the door and joins Loki on the bed, hyper aware of how things have changed between them. Thor wants to kiss Loki's neck, so he does, fits his lips to the spot just below his ear and sucks. Loki hums in his throat and shuts his book. Thor kisses downward until he reaches Loki's clavicle and then traces the bone with his tongue. He feels like he could shake apart right now. It's almost unbelievable that Loki is allowing this, is allowing him. Thor wasn't blind to Loki warming up to him, but he'd been hiding it better than Thor thought.

"I was sure you hated me before," he says.

Loki looks down at him, hair fanning onto his face.

"I never hated you," he says. "I did not know you. I did not trust you."

Thor blinks.

"So you were testing me."

"I was learning you." Loki reaches out and strokes his thumb over Thor's lower lip. "And you proved to be…acceptable."

"I am afraid I do not understand you one bit," Thor says.

Loki laughs and they meet halfway for the kiss. It's a slow kiss at first, but then Loki pushes it deeper, tries to pull Thor up some. Thor considers breaking to kiss to tell Loki what Odin has said, but once Loki brings a hand between them, Thor decides it can wait.

--

Over breakfast, Thor attempts to tell Loki where Odin has gone. Loki is sprawled on the bed and picking grapes from a bunch. He throws each one into the air before catching it effortlessly in his mouth. Thor opens his mouth, watches Loki spit out a seed, and then shuts it. The timing just seems off. And Loki has been in such a favorable mood, Thor really doesn't want to upset him yet. After lunch, he decides. He picks at the bread in front of him, mostly tearing it apart instead of eating it. He spent most of the previous night thinking about the elf he had struck. Perhaps he was someone important, but Thor doesn't think that should change a think. He sought them out—he meant to insult them both with his words. Thor reacted with his gut. He couldn't help it.

Then Odin summons them, and Thor wishes he had told Loki right away. Thor hadn't expected back from Alfheim so soon. The news is either very good then, or very bad. Loki can sense that he's nervous, even though Thor tries his damnedest to hide it, and by the time they reach the throne room, Loki is tense all over.

Just before reaching the steps of the throne, Thor says to Loki, "My father went to Alfheim."

Loki's neck nearly snaps when he turns.

"What?"

"It is true," Odin says. "Thor told me of the incident. It was only appropriate I see to the matter myself."

He's sitting upright on the throne, hands folded. Thor urges him on in the hopes it will calm Loki.

"You know the elf's identity?"

"I do." Odin pauses. "He is a high general in their army, Thor. He says Loki threatened him."

Thor's hand curls into a fist before he can stop it. "That is a lie!"

"I know this," Odin says.

He seems so calm and Thor doesn't understand how. That elf has slandered Loki and slandered them in turn. It makes Thor wish he would have let Loki kill him, but he knows that would have caused even more trouble.

"So what is to be done?" Loki says. His voice is tense.

"I informed the high priests that the elf was lying, and he has been punished." Odin fixes his gaze on Loki. "You be wary of me still, but I consider you now to be my son, and I will not allow defamation of my family."

Loki shifts on his feet but says nothing, though his body relaxes. Thor exhales. The matter is finished, then. The elf has been punished and no further issue should come to them. Thor says as much.

"Word of the incident in Alfheim traveled fast, I am afraid." Odin pauses again, this time for longer. "Rumors that Loki has you under some spell, that he seeks to defile our house."

Thor's anger is reignited. "You know that is not—"

Odin holds a hand up to silence him. Thor notices for the first time that his father's hand is shaking. He is angry, Thor realizes. He cannot imagine what Odin said to high priests on Alfheim.

"This is being dealt with as we speak," Odin says. "I would ask you not to trouble yourself further on it."

Loki, who has been silent for some time, finally speaks: "Beings will always talk."

"True," Odin says. "We have little control over that. But we can help change the direction by which they do so."

Loki is silent again after that. A few minutes later, Odin dismisses them, and Thor spends the quiet walk back to their chambers trying to decipher whether Loki is angry at him or not. Only Thor soon realizes that Loki is not walking to their chambers. He bypasses the door and goes further down the hallway to the second stairwell. He's heading to the library. Thor follows. Loki wanders the library with Thor on his heels, stopping only when he gets to a back corridor. Then he stares at the shelves of books in front of him, arms limp at his side. Thor can't take the silence any longer.

"You are angry with me," he says.

"I am not," Loki says.

He doesn't turn around, instead reaches up and grabs a book from the high shelf. Thor watches him push up onto his toes.

"But you are angry."

Loki opens the book and flips through a few pages before shutting it and placing it back on the shelf. Finally he turns.

"They think I am your pet," he says, voice ripe with distaste.

"You know you are not." Thor steps toward him and wraps his arms around Loki, not caring if he returns the embrace or not. "They too will come to know this, and regret such thoughts."

Loki doesn't directly return the embrace, but he does rest his chin on Thor's shoulder. Thor stares at the dusty books and scrolls lining the walls of the library, some largely unused and unread. He pulls back to look at Loki.

"It is finished," he says. "It is over."

Loki stares right at him.

"It does not feel that way."

Chapter Text

In public, Loki is the exact opposite of affectionate. He walks next to Thor, gives him the occasional glance, but his body language lets Thor know that to touch would be a poor move. In private, Loki becomes a different being entirely. Someway or another, he's always touching Thor, whether with his lips on his throat or his hands on his thighs. Thor has absolutely no objections to this. He knows Loki well enough by now to know that he is incredibly prideful. What they are doing will remain mostly on his terms for the time being. Mostly.

Two mornings after their meeting with Odin, Thor slides down Loki's body and nestles between his legs before pressing a kiss to his pelvis. Loki hums his approval.

"I want to taste you," Thor says. "May I?"

Loki blinks and looks down. "You already have, unless your memory is that poor."

Thor smiles because that isn't at all what he's talking about. And if Loki truly doesn't know, well, then Thor is eager to educate him. He brings his mouth to Loki's cunt, tongue slipping out to press in between the lips. Loki jumps, surprised, and then goes rigid.

"What is this?" he says.

Thor looks up at him through his lashes.

"Relax. You will enjoy it."

Despite the narrowing of his eyes, Loki doesn't stop him, so Thor licks again, using his hands to spread Loki's thighs a bit more and settle firmly between them. When he gets no protest, he fits his mouth to Loki's cunt, kisses it open mouthed, tongue swirling in to taste the cool sweetness of him. Loki's breathing gets heavier.

"Is this…common practice for Æsir?" he asks.

Thor doesn't answer him. Loki's uneven tone lets Thor know he's enjoying this, and Thor very much likes giving Loki pleasure, probably just as much as Loki likes receiving it. So he inhales the scent of Loki deeply and keeps going, tongue circling and pushing until Loki has his fingers wound tightly in Thor's hair. He reaches for Loki's cock and strokes it, feeling his thighs tremble around him and knowing that he's close. If Loki has pulled a few hairs from his scalp, Thor ignores it. Loki is making the most delicious noises, high whines from his throat and desperate little keening sounds, stomach muscles jumping.

The moment Loki's orgasm hits he pushes down against Thor's face, fingers twisting tightly in his hair again. Thor just lets him. Once he relaxes, Thor pulls back and wipes his mouth.

"What in the Nine was that?" Loki says, sprawled out still.

Thor settles next to him. "Did you like it?"

"You have a strange habit of asking me questions to which you already know the answer." Loki finally sits up and grins wicked. "Now lay still so I may take care of you."

Thor does.

--

The quiet of things makes him nervous. Thor doesn't exactly know why yet. It's just that things have been going too well the past few days. There has been no further word from Alfheim, and now Thor wonders if something worse isn't on its way. Loki, however, does seem to be finally settling in Asgard. Of course, he still gives Thor a hard time whenever possible, but he is far less hostile. Even so, he still keeps parts of himself from Thor, and though Thor is starting to get the feeling Loki is as enamored with him as he is, it's obvious that he is wrapped around Loki's finger. What's worse is he doesn't even mind.

Loki can be selfish. When Thor's attention isn't on him he gets upset. He may not say anything, but his expression makes it obvious. Maybe it's because he feels Thor is all he has here, maybe it's something else. Thor can never be sure with him. He likes that mystery about Loki. He also likes knowing that when Loki is upset, he is the only one who can calm him. Maybe that makes Thor selfish too.

Early the next morning, he asks Loki to walk around the grounds with him.

"I'd like to show you something."

Loki is watching Thor redo one of his plaits from a step stool. Both their hair is still damp from bathing. Loki reaches up and hands Thor a band of leather to hold the plait.

"All right," he says.

And so they walk. Thor takes Loki outside, the grass soft and still dewy under their feet. Much of Asgard is still asleep, so only their footsteps can be heard. They walk down a crooked path on the south side of the grounds, sharp stone that leads down, down. The path opens up into a flat, circular field of dirt. There is a rock in the way, so Thor kicks it aside.

"I trained to be a warrior right here."

Loki stares at the field. It's unclear whether he is impressed or not.

"Who was your teacher?" he asks.

"One of the high elves. His name was Elnarr. He passed away some years ago." Thor grabs a stick from the ground and holds it out, mimics a few jabs. "Elnarr used to beat me bloody when I failed to dodge his attacks."

"You were probably a terrible student," Loki says, and Thor does not deny it, because in many ways he was.

Loki crouches down and spreads a hand over the dirt of the field, almost as if he can tell something about the field through it. He twists his palm up and examines it before shaking the dirt off. Thor isn't looking to impress him. Not now. He wants to share more of himself with Loki, opens himself up to him other ways in the hopes that Loki might as well. Some of his happiest years were spent sparring here, though this particular field isn't used much anymore. Thor holds the stick at his side, thumb running over the rough bark.

"We have training fields much like this in Jötunheim," Loki says. "Though I was not on them much."

"Because you have magic." Thor clears his throat. "Magic that you have yet to show me."

Loki stands, wiping his hands together. For a moment, Thor thinks he's angered him somehow, but then Loki flicks his left wrist. It's barely noticeable but Thor catches the movement and sees his fingers curl in slightly. Then nothing. Thor isn't sure what to look for, so he just watches Loki and waits for something to happen. Then he realizes the stick in his hand is no longer rough but smooth, and moving. Thor looks down. The stick is no longer a stick at all, it's a snake. The snake wriggles, jaw open, and Thor shakes it from his hand, jumping without meaning to. Just as quickly as it appeared, the snake fades away like a mirage. Thor stares at the ground where it was. Loki starts laughing.

"I thought you wanted to see my magic," he says.

"Yes but not—" Thor glances at the ground once more to be sure the snake is gone. "Not without warning."

"Be more specific next time."

Loki grins apologetically and Thor wasn't really angry to begin with. Just the fact that Loki showed him his magic is another huge step forward in his eyes. Thor goes to him, expression already giving his plan away. Loki gives him a warning look.

"There is no one around," Thor says.

He kisses Loki soft and quick on the lips. Loki just hums in response. There truly is no one around. They are alone, and they easily get lost in one another for a moment, watch each other openly. Thor never noticed that Loki has this same jawline as Laufey. The moment ends when Loki looks away and nods to the distance.

"What is that over there?"

He is talking about the growth of trees to the east, a thick garden.

"Idunn's orchard. Her golden apples give eternal youth."

Thor and Sif used to sneak in as children and take as many apples as they could before being caught. But Idunn is ever watchful, and she always caught them.

"Ridiculous," Loki says.

"Ridiculous?"

Loki nods, squinting at the orchard.

"Nothing is eternal, Thor."

There is a silence then, and Thor is unsure whether he wants to try and challenge that notion or not. Loki has such a grim view of things, or maybe it's just more realistic. Loki's eyes flicker back to him.

"Is there more you wished to show me?"

Thor smiles.

"Aye," he says. "Much more. Come, I will show you my favorite hiding spot."

He leads Loki down to the gardens, to the thick tree that he used to climb and hide in whenever he'd gotten into trouble. Loki seems much more interested in the flowers growing there, though. They come in every color imaginable, some stretching up almost taller than them both. Jötunheim blooms flowers of its own during a brief period, but the climate makes it difficult for them to survive. Asgard is fortunate enough to see them all year round. A few of the flowers in the garden have yet to bloom, though. They sit as buds, shut tight. Loki stops to examine them. Thor doesn't understand what he's doing until Loki touches the buds with the tip of his finger and they bloom immediately. More magic. Thor watches wide eyed and when Loki notices this, he grins. Thor kisses him again because he feels he must, and Loki bites playfully into the kiss.

They walk back when they get hungry. The walk back seems short, and shorter still when they reach the palace and Odin is waiting for them. He is looking out onto the horizon, arms folded behind him. His face is placid, but Thor already knows something has happened. Dread pools in his stomach as they approach.

"What is it, father?" he says.

Odin glances briefly at Loki.

"A meeting has been requested of me," he says, "from Laufey."

They both go quiet, though Loki steps just in front of Thor, like he was going to approach Odin and then thought better of it. His face is blank, but his eyes are focused on Odin. Thor can only watch him.

"When?" Loki says.

"Tonight."

"But what for? Did he say?"

Thor can hear the anxiety in Loki's voice, but he doubts it is for the same reason.

"I do not yet know what Laufey will ask of me, or that he will ask anything at all," Odin says. "We must not make conclusions before we have all the facts. Come inside for breakfast and try not to dwell on this until the evening."

Much easier said than done. Thor already knows Loki's mind is reeling, and his is as well. There is no doubt in his mind that Laufey heard of the incident in Alfheim, but Thor wonders what version of the truth he received. Once Odin leaves them, silence falls between them again. It kills Thor not to know what Loki is thinking. His face is passive but his eyes show that he's on another world. He tries to think of something to lighten the mood.

"I am pleased, at least, that you will get to see your father once again," Thor says.

Loki halts, so Thor does as well. His face is still unreadable but when he speaks his voice takes on a tone Thor did not expect.

"You always look for the best in things, don't you?" he says, but says it kindly.

"Is it a fault?"

"It is so very foolish," Loki says. Then he adds, "But endearing nonetheless."

Thor is embarrassed to admit that he doesn't understand, but he admits it anyway.

"I will see my father again, yes, and then he will leave again," Loki says. "The ache will grow deeper. I dealt with the knowledge of never seeing him again once, now I shall face it once more."

At that point, Thor understands entirely. Loki's words had not occurred to him at all. He feels guilty once again that Loki ever had to go through this, even if he enjoys him being here. He is glad Loki is here. He knows it is selfish, but he is glad of it. Thor squeezes Loki's hand, and Loki does not pull away.

--

Evening comes both slowly and too fast. They hardly speak because there isn't much to talk about except the impending meeting. Thor recognizes that things could unravel very quickly, depending on how the meeting goes. He is sure that neither he nor Loki will be allowed to attend. Thor knows he still has a habit of speaking out, and Loki can do much the same. Neither of them are kings, not yet. But worrying will do nothing, so he goes about his business with Loki as usual.

Unfortunately, there isn't much to do that day, so the hours drag until the first stretch of dusk hits the horizon of Asgard. Just after the evening meal, Heimdall announces Laufey's arrival, and everything begins. Thor and Loki aren't to attend the meeting per Odin's orders. Loki says nothing about it, though he is angry about it. Oddly, he doesn't announce his anger, he just broods in their chambers, eyes far away as he looks out. Thor wishes he could say something to put him at ease, but he himself is on edge.

"What do you think he wants?" Loki asks.

"I do not know." Thor cups the back of Loki's neck. "Though I am sure it will be fine."

Loki smiles thinly, says, "Your lie would be prettier if I believed it."

Thor frowns because even he doesn't believe it. He sits next to Loki, their shoulders brushing, and they wait. Loki is not a patient being. He jostles his leg and curses in Elvish, glancing every few minutes to the door as if he wouldn't hear the knock. Thor puts a hand on his knee to get him to stop, but Loki only shifts his leg away. He always feels very cool, skin soft and inviting. Thor worries about not touching him ever again, and then he can't stop worrying about it. And it isn't just not touching him—it's not seeing him, not watching the way his fingers move across a text or the pink dart of his tongue. Even his red-eyed anger. Thor wants all of that, and he wants that always.

"Loki," Thor says, and then falls quiet trying to think of a way to word everything he wants to say. He suddenly feels out of time.

"What is it?"

Loki is watching him, but then he turns to the door, alert.

"Listen." He stands. "Someone is coming."

Seconds later, the door is opened. It's Odin. Laufey isn't with him, and Thor doesn't know if that's a good sign or not. Odin steps in and shuts the door behind him, face weary. Loki looks around almost frantically for his father.

"Where is he?" he says. "My father."

"He went back to Jötunheim," Odin says.

Loki swells with anger. "I was to see—"

"He will return," Odin says, successfully rendering Loki quiet.

Thor swallows.

"What do you mean?"

Odin doesn't answer him. He looks at Loki.

"He wants to take you back to Jötunheim," he says.

Loki's mouth doesn't seem to work for a moment, and then what finally tumbles out from between his lips, seemingly without his permission. Thor just stares. That was not what he expected, but it doesn't make it any better. What could they have spoken about that would have lead Laufey to ask this? He cannot just expect Loki to leave.

"He fears for your life beyond the safety of Jötunheim's borders," Odin says. "And as a father I do empathize with his plight. Though his request will come with some consequence. It would null his arrangement but not the other treaties. I am unsure how the realms will react to this."

Fury and anxiety bubble in Thor's chest. "You are actually going to let him—"

"No," Odin says. "This is not my decision to make. It is Loki's."

Loki pulls himself back like he's on the defensive, eyes narrow. He's trying to wrap his mind around this, as is Thor. Loki can't leave…though Thor realizes he actually could. If he decides to go, Thor can't stop him. This wasn't an option before, but now it is.

"Do you understand what I have said?" Odin looks again at Loki, who has yet to answer him. "This is your decision. I will not make it for you. I have said you are not a prisoner by any means, and I hold to that still."

That seems to pull Loki back to reality.

"Is this a test, Allfather? Do you mean to test me?"

"I mean to do what is best."

Loki shuts his mouth, though he doesn't look any more at ease. He looks to Thor like he might know something about it, and Thor can only stare back helplessly. This isn't his decision either. He is at a complete loss as to what to do. Odin opens the door once more.

"Laufey returns tomorrow at dusk," he says. "Your decision must be given then."

"You will have it," Loki says, sounding far less distraught now.

The watch as the door shuts, and then it is quiet. A heaviness settles over them both, and neither speaks. Thor is honestly afraid to ask Loki what he wants to do. He is afraid Loki will say he is going to leave. Things may not have started out smoothly, but Thor feels they were learning each other, opening up to each other. He is fond of Loki—he is more than fond of him—and he thinks Loki feels much the same way, but he isn't sure that will stop him from returning home.

Loki sits again, body heavy. The look of indecision on his face gives Thor some hope about it all. Maybe he is unsure as well. Thor won't deny that he wants him to be. He does want him to stay. Thor leans against him, rests his chin on the crook of Loki's shoulder. Loki's voice vibrates in his throat when he speaks.

"If I left, would you mourn?"

"I would," Thor says.

"Would you let me leave?"

"I...could not stop you." Thor bites his lip. He feels like he's walking on very thin ice, ready to fall through at any moment. He isn't sure what the right answer to anything is. "But I would not like it."

"You could not stop me," Loki says.

He sounds distant when he says it, like he is truly considering it. Thor sits upright and grabs hold of Loki's shoulders so he can face him properly.

"I could not stop you if you wanted to leave," he says. "But do you want to leave?"

Loki's lips part but once again he seems to be struggling to find words.

"I do not know," he says finally, and his words whisper across Thor's face, ice cold and thick with meaning.

Thor's hands slide from Loki's shoulders.

"I see."

Loki jerks away harshly and stands, agitated. His mouth is drawn tight as he paces the floor, hands curled into fists.

"You cannot manipulate me into staying," he says.

Thor blinks. He's done nothing, at least he doesn't think he has. He certainly would not try and manipulate Loki's decision. He stands slowly and approaches Loki the same way. Thor knows now for sure that he is struggling about it.

"You cannot make me feel guilty," Loki says.

He notices Thor is approaching him and stops, chest rising and falling with his anger.

"Loki," Thor says. "It is your decision."

Loki deflates all at once, shoulders dropping. He doesn't look angry anymore. Maybe overwhelmed.

"It is," he says. "It is."

Thor draws him into his arms and holds him there until they are both too tired to stand anymore.

Chapter Text

Loki sleeps. Thor does not. He stays awake, watching Loki slumber in his arms. He stays awake and wonder if this will be the last time. Things changed the moment Loki walked into the halls of Asgard. Thor just didn't realize how drastically the change would come. He didn't realize that he would come to find himself needing Loki, to timing the beating of his heart to match his own. Is this love? It must be, or something close to it. Thor has never boasted himself in love before, but he thinks he knows the feeling. He thinks this may be it.

He can't say he would feel the same in Loki's position. If Loki chooses to leave, then what? The marriage will be nulled, and Thor will presumably be free to remarry whomever he wants. But he doesn't want another anymore. Would he be ale to visit Loki? Or will Loki refuse to look upon him ever again? A broken marriage treaty could be seen as weakness in the eyes of the other realms, it could stir things. All they need is one pillar to fall, and then rest will come tumbling soon after.

Thor wants Loki to be happy, but he wants Loki to be happy with him. He thinks he is, at least somewhat, but that may not be enough. If Thor had the choice of being with his family again, he'd jump at it without hesitation. He watches Loki sleep now, his brows drawn downward, troubled even in his dreams. Strands of his hair have tangled around his horns. Thor reaches up carefully and unravels them, smoothing the hair back.

He doesn't remember falling asleep, but in the early morning he wakes, arms empty. Thor panics for a moment, disoriented from sleep and thinking Loki has left him already, but once he sits up, he sees Loki emerge from the bath.

"Ah," Loki says. "You've awoken."

"Have you—" Thor stops himself from asking. He wants to know desperately, but he's also afraid. Of course, Loki already knows what he was going to ask.

"I have not," he says. "Though I do have an idea."

He seems strangely at ease, twisting his hair to squeeze out the excess water. An idea. Thor hopes it is a good one. He can't imagine anything that would bring them both what they want at this moment, but if Loki has found some way, Thor is eager to hear it. Only Loki doesn't speak. He dresses slowly, tying fur around his hips. He dries his neck, expressionless. Thor is about to burst out when Loki finally looks at him.

"Come with me to Jötunheim."

Thor feels himself sinking further into the mattress. Part of him was afraid Loki would say this, request the one thing that Thor cannot do. If he leaves, Asgard has no heir, no one to take the throne once Odin passes to Valhalla. The Æsir would fall.

"Loki, you know I cannot leave—"

"Ah, now you speak truthfully." Loki's expression grows harder. "You were willing to let me be taken away but you will not leave your precious Asgard."

"That is not the reason," Thor says. "There would be no heir. I would send my people to ruin."

"What care have I for them?"

Loki looks close to hysterics, and Thor is afraid that one false move will cause him to say something they will both later regret. Loki must still feel for Thor, or he would never ask him to go to Jötunheim. There must be a way he can get him to stay.

"They are your people too, now," Thor says.

Silence settles between them, and Loki seems to be mulling over what Thor's said. Sunlight is peeking through the window behind Loki. The rays starburst around him as if he is glowing, an ethereal being.

"It matters not," Loki says, stepping away from the window now and letting the harsh rays hit Thor. "I have made my decision. I return to Jötunheim tonight."

Thor jumps from the bed without even thinking. He grabs Loki, thumbs digging into the markings on his shoulders. Now he is the one who feels hysterical, desperation clinging to him like a second skin.

"Loki, please."

"Unhand me," Loki says. He sounds deceptively calm.

"Think more on this, I beg you."

Loki pulls away from him and Thor lets him go. His eyes are blank, unreadable.

"There is nothing else to think about," he says.

He backs away as if he's unable to look away from Thor just yet until he reaches the door, and then he steps out and is gone. The silence in his absence is terrifying in a way Thor can't explain. He feels hollow. He should run out the door after Loki, stop him and talk sense into him, but Thor knows better. He stumbles backwards until he's sitting on the bed once more, and places his face in his hands.


 

An hour later, Thor leaves he and Loki's chambers to search for him. Loki has not returned. Thor knows he will not leave until Laufey comes, but he feels as if Loki is already gone. The palace seems desolate now, almost foreign. Thor is so used to walking these halls with Loki, and walking them alone again seems like the cruelest fate. He walks faster, desperation pulling at him. Thor rounds a corner and runs right into his mother.

"Thor," she says, smiling at first, but once she sees his expression, her face falls. "My darling, what troubles you?"

He can't help telling her.

"Loki means to leave."

Frigga frowns, her eyes sympathetic. She hugs Thor to her and strokes his back.

"There is still time, his mind could change."

"I do not want him to leave," Thor says.

"I know." Frigga pulls away and touches his cheek. "You mustn't lose hope yet."

He already has. Loki is as stubborn as he—he won't change his mind.

"I fear everything is lost already," Thor says. "When Loki first came to us, I was angry at him for even existing. Now I am angry at him for threatening to exist no longer."

"Nothing is lost." Frigga strokes his cheek with her thumb. "Nothing is ever lost until we let it be so."

Thor kisses her cheek and replays her words in his head. Once they part ways, Thor walks to the library. He knows Loki well enough by now to know that is exactly where he'll be. Thor enters silently, walking carefully past the rows of books and scrolls. He walks to the back and sees Loki's bare feet, then the rest of him as he goes closer. Loki is sitting on the ground, legs out, arms limp. He isn't even reading. When he sees Thor though, his face tightens. Thor bends to his knees by him, searching his face, his eyes. He looks utterly miserable.

"Loki," he says.

"Have you come to try and change my mind?"

Loki doesn't look at him. He stares down at his lap instead. Thor very badly wants to reach out and touch him, but he makes himself hold still.

"I have not," he says.

Loki looks surprised by this, but he barely shows it. Thor swallows.

"I have come to tell you that I love you."

For a brief moment, Loki doesn't move a muscle. Then he is up and snarling and pushing Thor away as if he has said something greatly offensive to him. His eyes are wide and glowing, teeth bared. Thor stands with him but he doesn't attempt to touch Loki yet.

"How dare you," Loki says. "How dare you say that to me."

Thor isn't quite sure what he means. Does he think this is a joke?

"It is true," he says.

He reaches out, but Loki only steps back again, this time turning and giving Thor his back. He doesn't run, Thor knows he's too proud for that, but now he won't even look at him. They wait each other out, and minutes pass without a word between either of them. Then Loki speaks, voice quiet but clear.

"I do not wish to leave," he says.

Thor can't speak for a moment. "Loki—"

"It is your damned fault!" Loki turns, anger reunited, and rushes toward Thor. "You filthy Æsir pig!"

He hits Thor, closed fist and knuckle out. The blows aren't necessarily hard, but they are repetitive, and they sting. Thor lets him. All he can think about it is the fact that Loki really doesn't want to leave, the fact that Loki might stay.

"I hate you," Loki says.

"You do not mean that," Thor says.

He's calm, and that seems to take away some of Loki's anger. He stops hitting Thor, fists falling to his sides.

"You infuriate me," he says.

Thor embraces him.

"I love you."

Loki doesn't respond, which Thor takes as a good sign. His head rests on Thor's shoulder, breathing ragged. Thor says it again. He isn't sure when it happened, just that's it's true without a doubt—he loves Loki. And Loki, Loki doesn't want to leave. For Thor, that's as good as him saying it back. Thor eventually lets go and finds that Loki is actually looking at him now. He doesn't look angry anymore. Thor is so relieved he feels he could cry. Instead he kisses Loki, wet and sure on the lips.

"Will you stay?" he says.

Loki's voice comes as a whisper, "Yes."


 

Dusk approaches quickly. Orange light settles through the vaulted windows on the library ceiling. Thor and Loki have yet to leave the library, and despite Loki's apparent change, Thor is afraid to let him alone for any length of time. Loki notices quickly, as he notices all things. He reads, but Thor stays behind him, nearly breathing on his shoulder. Loki finally growls at him.

"Must you hover incessantly?" he says.

Thor takes a step back.

"Are you truly staying?"

"Yes," Loki says. "For the thousandth time. It would be pointless to leave, at any rate. Jötunheim would be left vulnerable, and all the treaties would have been for naught."

Thor's brows arch.

"Is that the only reason?"

"If you are expecting a confession of love, you will find yourself sorely disappointed." Loki shuts his book and glances up at the setting sun. "Father will be here within the hour."

It isn't over yet, they both know that. Laufey will surely be upset by Loki's decision. His grief may prompt Loki to change his mind again. They have no way of knowing what will come to pass by the time night falls. Thor hasn't been this anxious since his wedding day. When he and Loki finally do leave the library, Frigga is waiting for them outside their chambers. She smiles upon seeing Loki. They both know why she is there.

"The Allfather requests you both meet him in the throne room."


 

They wait next to Odin. All three are silent and still as they wait for Laufey's arrival. Odin hasn't been informed of Loki's decision, but he also hasn't asked. Thor wonders if had been hoping for Loki to stay as well. He thinks they all had been—Loki has been in Asgard so long now, it's impossible to imagine him not there.

Loki fidgets next to Thor, which is understandable. He hasn't seen him father since the day of their wedding, hasn't even spoken to him. He actually looks nervous, though Thor knows he would sooner die than admit that. Night has nearly fallen over Asgard. Thor goes from watching Loki to watching Odin to watching the doors of the throne room. He was terrified of Laufey as a child, and in a way he still is. Laufey is a giant, a warrior, and a king. But he is also Loki's father.

Eventually, one of the guard's announces Laufey's arrival. Odin stands.

"Show him in."

Loki breathes out heavily beside Thor before going still. Thor almost reaches for his hand, but the echoing steps of Laufey's arrival keep him from moving. The whole room shakes with his arrival, ground rumbling. The doors to the throne room are opened, and Laufey steps in. For a moment, no one moves at all, and then Loki suddenly comes alive.

"Father," he says, and walks quickly toward him.

Laufey meets him halfway and bends to embrace him, on knee planted on the floor. He whispers something to Loki in a different language, eyes shut tight. Thor feels inexplicably guilty all over again. Once they part, Laufey stands again and bows. Odin returns to the gesture.

"King Laufey, welcome back."

"You have informed Loki of my request," he says.

"I have." Odin motions toward Loki. "I let the decision rest in his hands, and his alone."

They're all looking at Loki now, Loki who looks much smaller suddenly, Loki who came here feeling like a prisoner.

"And?" Laufey says. "What have you decided, little moon?"

It seems to take an eternity before Loki speaks. He grabs his father's wrist.

"I stay in Asgard," he says, and Thor realizes he's been holding his breath. "Shame would befall our house to null such a treaty."

Laufey doesn't answer at first. He seems shocked by Loki's answer.

"Is this truly your decision?"

Loki nods. "It is."

Laufey stares at him a moment longer as if he's trying to draw something out of Loki, but nothing else comes. His head snaps up. He looks to Thor, to Odin, and his eyes narrow. This is not the answer he expected.

"This is folly," he says. "You have been coerced into this."

"Father, no—"

Laufey starts to move, and Thor recognizes his stance is an offensive one. His fingers itch but he doesn't grab for a weapon, not yet. This is Loki's father, not some enemy. Thor glances to his father, and he sees that Odin is gripping Gungnir tightly. Loki is trying to keep hold of his father's wrist, but he's no match for Laufey's strength—his father shakes him off easily, and Loki stumbles aside.

"You give me back my son," Laufey says.

Odin moves Gungir in front of himself. "Stand down, Laufey. Think rationally. This is Loki's decision." 

"You lie."

And then Laufey turns to Thor. His eyes narrow further, anger redirected. Thor holds his ground, but he still doesn't reach for a weapon. If any of them strike one another, they will spark another war. Laufey surely knows this, but in his fury, he doesn't seem to care. His fist curls, and Thor can feel the air growing colder as ice begins to form over his wrist. He glances at Loki, meaning to apologize for what he's about to do, but he doesn't see Loki at all. Laufey growls low in his throat.

"You have taken my son."

"Laufey!" Odin says. "If you strike, you will be killed."

Laufey doesn't listen. He pulls his arm back, and then Thor knows he must call for his weapon then, but Laufey goes still before he can do anything. Thor stares. The ice on his arm and hand cracks and disappears, and then Laufey is tumbling backwards. Just before he hits the floor, his body hovers, suspended.

"Father," Loki says.

Thor can see him again now, and it all makes sense. Loki his arms out, green magic curled around him up to his elbows. He's struck his father with some kind of spell, and as he lowers him to the floor, Laufey seems to be making sense of it as well. The anger in his eyes dissipates into something more like sorrow. Thor looks to his father—he no longer looks ready to defend.

"You foolish old creature," Loki says, though not unkindly. "You know I cannot leave."

Laufey doesn't move from the floor. "It was too soon."

Loki nods.

"Yes," he says. "And now it is too late. You must go home, father."

"Jötunheim is your home," Laufey says. "Not Asgard."

"They are both my home."

Loki lowers his arms and the magic disappears. Thor can see the way his arms shake, maybe from exertion, maybe from something else. Loki helps his father up. The room falls silent again as the tension slowly leaves them all. Thor can see that night has fallen now. The day is over.


 

Laufey's departure is swift. He and Loki speak lowly and privately in the corner before Laufey is once again escorted out. Thor knows this will truly be the last time Loki sees his father. Loki is staying, but Thor is very aware that their problems remain as well.

"This changes nothing," Loki says to Odin, and though it isn't a question, Odin answers it as one.

"Your father made no attack. The treaties stand."

Loki nods, eyes on the ground. "Thank you," he says.

Back in their chambers, Loki is quiet, which Thor expected. He wants to say a lot of things to his husband, but the words escape him. Instead he waits quiet as well. They have time again, they have all the time they need. Thor bathes and readies for bed, all the while leaving Loki be. He pushed for Loki to stay, he did. It may have been Loki's decision, but Thor had been hoping for it as well. Once they're in bed with the lights snuffed, Loki finally breaks his silence.

"Did you mean it?" he says.

Thor turns toward Loki, even though he can't see him in the darkness.

"Mean what?"

"You professed your love for me," Loki says. "Did you mean it?"

"I would not have said it if I did not mean it."

Loki hums in the darkness, and Thor wishes he could see his face to try and read him. There is rustling, and then Loki climbs onto Thor, a shadow above him. For an insane moment, Thor thinks Loki is going to kill him. Instead, Loki leans close and nuzzles his jaw.

"When I am king," he says, "I want the borders to Jötunheim open once again."

"When you're..." Thor trails off to breathe in. It's hard to think straight with Loki touching him like this. "Aye, that could be arranged."

"Good," Loki says. 

He bites Thor's neck, and Thor can't tell whether he's cross or actually enjoying himself. Thor grabs his hips, eyes shut once more. Loki is here, he is staying. Nothing will change that now. He moves so he can kiss Loki. They sit like that in the darkness, mouths moving against one another, bodies pressed close.

"Do not presume that I love you," Loki says.

Thor laughs under him. Even though Loki's words sting, it's such a Loki thing to say that he can't help himself.

"I know never to presume with you, husband." He reaches for Loki's hands and collects them in his own. "But you tell me one thing. Tell me you do not hate me."

Loki kisses his jaw. "I do not hate you."

Thor smiles, squeezes Loki's hands briefly.

"I am not a fool to think you may even grow to love me."

Loki laughs. "You will always be a fool, husband."

"But not because of that."

Loki cocks his head, Thor doesn't have to see to know he is doing so.

"It could take a long time," Loki says. "I do hope you don't grow bored waiting."

Thor slides his arms up and pulls Loki down to him, his mouth resting against Loki's ear.

"We have time," he says.

They have all the time in the universe.