Fear and Loathing in Asgard

by Speranza

Author's Note: Thor/Loki, absolutely inexcusable, entirely Astolat's fault. Porn and woobie!Loki. I would do anything (including this) for love, apparently. (This is the story featured in the vid Anything for Love.)

Chapter One

Being one, Loki didn't particularly believe in gods, but he did believe in the power of stories. He had been entranced by them at his moth-- at Frigga's knee. Later, while preparing to be king, he eagerly consumed the tales not just of Asgard, but of every known world: Legends, fables, and folk tales, epic poems and historical song cycles, love ballads, myths, and morality plays. From these he had learned the following truth: that if there was a boisterous, bull-headed older brother and a bookish and pale younger brother, the younger would turn out to be the true king. He had seen this truth again and again reflected in many mirrors and metaphors: the clever second sister who wins the best husband, the deceptive younger brother who steals the birthright, the bullied runt of the household who is imbued with powerful magic. On every world, the stories told of intelligent, dark-haired younger children who proved superior to their lunkish, rough and hairy elder brothers, and while Thor was an excellent fellow in many ways, mostly involving drink, sport, and the creative use of his hammer, Loki had never had occasion to doubt whether his many hours of preparation for the throne would prove necessary.

He had consequently been roiled by the discovery that he was a son neither of Odin nor of Asgard; true, such revelations of ancestry were a common feature of the tales, but the son was always found to be a member of a superior race or a more noble family, not a subjugated one such as the Jotunn. He considered that perhaps the sons of the tales had also despaired upon discovering that they were magicians, or fairies, or French, but that that part had simply been left out of the tales. Yet he could not convince himself that he had been mistaken about the nature of the Jötnar; they were, he had long observed, monstrous: chaotic of soul and spirit, their philosophy incoherent, their music, worse. Beyond this, it suggested that he had for a thousand years been preparing himself for the wrong part: not the patient king-in-waiting of bountiful Asgard, but the long-lost heir to a barren world.

He could not accept such a grotesque fate. He meditated and calculated, and soon came upon a happier interpretation: it was a test. The very depth of his despair was proof positive of it; it would be in the nature of a test not to reveal itself as a test. A lesser prince, Loki decided, would yield to perceived destiny; he himself would not. He would prove himself the master of fortune. He would formulate a plan so cunning, so audacious, so bold in design and virtuosic in execution that it would show the All-Father that one could be thunderstruck by genius as well as by force. He would annihilate the Jotunn, and thus prove himself the truest son of Asgard; he would give Jotunheim to Odin as a gift, make of that ice-rock, a diamond for his father's hand.

The present was not well received. Loki was baffled, stung: in no tale did the king and prince take the part of their adversaries. It stabbed at him; it struck with the violence of revelation. He had been wrong: he was the villain of the piece. He was the changeling, the curse, the viper coiling at the breast of the great and generous. He had misread all the portents and signs. He was the black dog, the scorpion, the morning star, a falling star. He let go and tumbled into the void.

He remembered little of his time in the camp of the Chitauri, after his long falling; he spoke little to his hosts and spent much time sitting alone and staring down at his hands. Blackness clouded his thoughts; he could not reason. Simple calculations led to violence: bloody moons in his palms. He had been cast out; miscast. And yet he could take no comfort from this self-pity, for was he not a monster, ugly, prone to rages, a terror to children? Were his thoughts not as chaotic and unformed as those of any damned Frost Giant?

Were he a monster, he would then be a monster, a most excellent monster--and so he let his rage fall where the Chitauri's master wished to direct it, upon Midgard, a provincial backwater of trivial significance except that Thor rather liked it. It was a test run for the destruction of all things; an out-of-town debut for his new role as adversary.

But he hadn't anticipated how boring it would be. Oh, the chaos and explosions were fun, and the goal of absolute power was a worthy one, but the humans were worms: made of dust where he was of fire. The Avengers were the only life in the place, and when they ended his trial apocalypse, he was mainly relieved. He had not, he realized, the true temperament of a villain: after some of his more lurid pronouncements, he often suffered fits of giggles. Ruling Midgard was rather like being king of the pigeons: worthy only of someone who had no sense of worth. He was perhaps a monster but not yet so delusional. He was happy when it was over. He needed a drink.

After Odin's chastisements and the public condemnations and the endless, endless ritual of censure, during which Loki knelt before the throne and counted the innumerable facets of the beautifully mosaicked floors, he found himself confined to his rooms. Despite all the rhetoric, he had been neither imprisoned nor exiled, nor had Odin even given him the compliment of disowning him. He was not granted the status of villain, but was condemned instead to that wasteland of purpose: the meandering life of a second son.

The gag had been removed from his mouth, but he had been otherwise silenced: his talents muffled, his spirit wrapped in bafflement, his magic dissipated. Not that the knowledge of magic had been taken from him, nor the desire to do it; rather, he had been struck by a kind of impotence. His labor had no product, his efforts were to no effect. He cast about for a role to play. Revenger? What was the point? Penitent? He couldn't bear the dullness of the company. He sat down heavily in his favorite chair, made from the richest elderwood and exquisitely carved with birds of all description: owls and magpies, hummingbirds and ravens, crows and wrens. Diplomat? Scholar? He had still some little influence at court. He had his books and papers. He…

He swept his traitorous books to the floor. Then he ordered that a cask of ale and two of Asgard's most notorious debauchs be brought to his chambers. He didn't bother to stand when they arrived.

"Come," he said, roughly, "and kiss me."

He had, foolishly, assumed that the pleasure to be had was in fucking them, but by the third day, Loki realized that this was shortsighted and was also giving himself to Vigarr and Jannic by turns. He had conjured them a banquet of restorative cocktails and aphrodisiacal comestibles, and then Jannic--an excellent fellow, sixteenth son of Lord Kollr and thrown out of four Lyceums before his beard came in--offered him the petals of a flower which, when placed on the tongue, heightened sensitivity immensely. The frenzy of sexual activity which this produced then led them to pursue greater heights of sensation, and together they drank rare elixirs, smoked obscure leaves, and snorted magical powders until Loki, feeling utterly challenged and truly alive for the first time in decades, conjured a spell that so incited them to passion that they did themselves injury during their rapturous heights, smashing Loki's ancient bedstand to pieces and yet still fucking through it, sweating and laughing.

Excellent company that Jannic was, he was done in by the exertion and soon had not the strength to do more than offer his body as a pillow. Loki lay with his head on Jannic's stomach and spread his legs invitingly for Vigarr, who was stronger and more practiced: he had, Loki knew, been the protege of the notoriously louche valkyrie Ulrika who had, it was said, used him brutally and well.

Vigarr tossed a shock of pale blond hair from his forehead and said to Jannic, mockingly: "You could at least hold our lord prince's head, svækling; you could at least kiss his mouth or lick his cock." Jannic groaned, and flailed upward with a pale hand. Loki caught it and sucked meditatively on his fingers.

"You could," he said finally, "at least send for reinforcements."

The reinforcements were a Smörgåsbord of delights: men tall and short, muscled and lithe, golden blonds and platinum blonds and strawberry blonds and honey blonds and a few copper-haired beauties. One of the redheads brought him a ceramic jug of wine as a present and, shyly, knelt and offered it to him. Loki poured them each a glass--it coated his throat and had a wonderfully dizzying, instantly intoxicating effect. It made the redhead's mouth taste of blackberries. Loki poured the rest of his glass down the man's hairless chest and chased the thick black fluid down with his tongue.

Eventually he himself tired, and he dozed for a while in a tangle of warm bodies. His despair seemed to have burned out, guttering into warm laziness. There seemed to be more people than he remembered, or perhaps someone had cast a spell to multiply themselves, or else word of the feast had spread. The thought made him smile. His mouth watered at the smell of roasted meat. Someone kissed him. but his eyes were closed and so he didn't know who. Later, some daring soul shoved and tugged and held him so he could be fucked while someone else sucked him. He gasped helplessly, canting his hips, and felt arms tightening around him. It wasn't happiness. But it was ecstasy, and it would have to be enough.

Much later, he was vomiting happily in a large bronze basin when he happened to look up. There were several new people in the room. A scholar in profile: high forehead and a clever, curving mouth. A slender tow-haired youth of no more than three centuries; Loki's mouth watered. And a body sculpted to perfection in marble, come to life before his eyes, with hair of golden fire and a mouth that was lush, voluptious, scowling--Loki blinked. Thor. He threw up a little more.

Thor crouched beside him, face creased with concern. Loki stared at his mouth a moment longer, then shook his head to clear it. "Loki," Thor said despairingly, "how can you dishonor yourself thus?"

Loki laughed and wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. "Dishonor is not the sensation I feel most keenly at the moment," he said, sinking back among the velvet cushions. "This wine is excellent," he said, and sloppily poured Thor a glass; he felt inspired and cruel. "Come. Join the party."

Thor looked around the room dubiously, his eyes momentarily halting on--and then hastening away from--various acts of lewdness and gluttony. Loki himself tried not to be distracted by the staggeringly beautiful twin brothers giving each other simultanous oral pleasure in the corner.

"I would not--" Thor began, then dropped his voice. "I would not join such company."

The nerve. "Oh, oh, but these are splendid fellows," Loki insisted breezily, propping himself up on his elbows. "Holger, there--the one fucking the goat--is the disinherited heir of Aakusti. Ranier is one of the bastard sons of Cazper. That fellow there...well, I don't know who he is, but doesn't he have splendid buttocks? The flower of Asgard, every one. So kind of them to visit me in my confinement."

"But there is talk," Thor said in a low, strained voice; the goat seemed to be making him distinctly uncomfortable. "Already it is said that you are unmanned. This is unworthy of you, brother--"

"Ah, but you forget: I am not your brother," Loki chided. "These are my brothers. These and such as these," he explained, gesturing, "for I too am no king, and not even as much as a bastard son." Loki sat up and put an arm around Thor's shoulders. "You see, I defend nothing," he explained softly. "I prepare for nothing. I seek nothing and expect nothing." Thor looked confused; Loki smiled and patted his cheek. "If you will not join me, at least do not condemn me. We have not all your expectations. Have some of this wine. Put one of these kusymre blossoms on your tongue. Vigarr's cock will send you halfway to paradise, and Jannic's ass--" but Thor was already fled from the room. Loki laughed.

He experienced the most disorienting coitus interruptus when Thor suddenly appeared over the shoulder of the young fellow who was groaning upon his cock, pulled him off and flung him away. Loki blinked up at him, surprised, then sighed and tucked his hands behind his head, his abandoned cock jutting unhappily upwards.

"Get up," Thor said, roughly extending a hand. He seemed to be having a difficult time not looking somewhere significantly below Loki's face. "We are leaving this place."

Loki didn't move. "I am confined to my rooms."

"Not anymore; our father--"

"Not our father," Loki said.

Thor's eyes flashed dangerously. " Our father has lifted the sanction. He given you permission to accompany me on a hunt--together we shall seek the Golden Hind of Agnarr... "

Thor extended his hand. Loki tilted his head and looked at him skeptically.

"Through the Forest of Ravndal, " Thor continued, as if Ravndal, a snowy wasteland, could be an enticement. Loki left Thor's hand unclasped, and Thor growled and bent to seize him, gripping his biceps and tugging him upwards. His hands were warm, and Loki fought the urge to surge forward: an instinctive reaction, if a disquieting one, after such a long bacchanal. He jerked backwards, but Thor held him fast and looked into his eyes with sickening sincerity.

"Fresh air and honorable sport, my brother. It will do you a world of good," and Loki closed his eyes and groaned.


Chapter 2

Ravndal was a wasteland - snow-topped mountains, icy wind whipping through the trees - though they had strong, well-rested horses and were amply supplied. Loki refused to cooperate for the first part of their journey: he was content to sit back in his saddle and let his horse meander through the snow. This greatly annoyed Thor, who kept galloping ahead and then doubling back to urge him on. He could see the confusion on Thor's face, for they had both been taught riding as the sport of kings. But what use was that to him now?  He had a flask smuggled under his furs, and he pulled it out and took a swig. The flesh above the wrist of his glove was faintly blue. The bastard would have chosen Ravndal--though of course he was the bastard. He turned his face into the white sky and felt the abrasion of ice crystals.

Still, centuries of practice had trained him to the hunt as well as Thor, and upon perceiving the merest hint of motion in the forest, he couldn't help but spur his horse to investigate; and upon catching a glimpse of the shimmering hide, Loki surged forward and grabbed tight hold of the reins, coaxing his horse into a fierce gallop and taking a huge fallen tree at a jump.  His senses were all ablaze: the heaving of the black horse beneath him and the crash and bang of hooves, Thor bent low over his horse's gray neck, golden hair streaming out behind him, their prey a mirage, a halo, a sunrise.

Loki screamed into the wind, the cold air burning his lungs. He shed all his other roles and let himself become Skadi, Orion, Nyyrikki: a pure hunter. He kicked his horse to a burst of speed as they cleared the forest, racing Thor across the snow after the golden beast, both of them  close upon the line of tracks.  The black neck of Loki's horse pulled ahead of Thor's grey as they ploughed through banks of snow--and he could almost see it now, the beautiful strong flank, the high-piled twist of antlers almost architectural, monumental; godly.  He would catch the beast and wear those horns, Loki vowed, as a--

Time stopped as the grey tumbled down, legs everywhere, an empire falling, the scream of the injured horse lost in the churn of snow. For an eternity Loki raced on, alone now on the wintry plain. He could catch the beast. It would be his, and his alone--but he was already pulling back on the reins, urging the horse around so violently that the confused animal reared up on its hind legs, and doubling back on his tracks toward the commotion. Loki was already halfway off the horse, and now he leapt down into the snow in a tumble of fur and leather. Thor had gotten out from beneath the grey and was stumbling to his feet, obviously distraught, and Loki tried to yank him away from the horse's violent kicks.  Time ran backwards as they struggled, the centuries falling away and leaving them children--and it was his horse, Glaer, whose leg was broken; Glaer, the gentle chestnut he'd preferred in those days. And as Thor yanked him away from the poor beast Loki had dissolved completely, felled by grief and a savage self-loathing. He could not do what had to be done; he was no man. Thor had put down the horse while Loki turned his back on them, tears streaming down his face. He had been desperately grateful to Thor and at the same time had wished to put out his brother's eyes for bearing witness to his degradation. They had ridden back to the citadel of Asgard on one horse. Thor had never said a word to anyone.

He had thought this a fault line in the bedrock of his character--a sign of his fundamental weakness--and so had sought to overcome it. He had worked hard at killing since then. Now, centuries on, he saw Thor's eyes filling with tears. Loki seized him and said, roughly: "Go and fetch me my horse."  Thor looked distracted and confused. Loki grabbed Thor's face, turned it. "Go and fetch me my horse," he repeated, and this time Thor nodded and moved toward the wandering steed; Loki drew his sword.

It was best not to linger. Loki swung up behind Thor on the horse and together they rode back towards  the forest to make camp. It was familiar, riding behind Thor as he had done as a boy, watching the sun set red across the untouched snow.  Thor's smell was as familiar to him as the smell of the horse, as the stink of blood  in his nose. Thor's shoulders were slumped with exhaustion; dejection; he had liked the grey and he had not yet learned, as Loki had learned, that all men were one unforseeable step away from disaster. He felt drawn to put his arms around Thor. He also wanted to crook his hands into claws and sink them into his chest, rip his rib cage open: his supplanter, his guard, his brother-king. He hated Thor for crying and not being ashamed. He closed his eyes and tried to dream himself elsewhere.

He sat back and watched Thor labor to build their camp, then swept all but the fire away and conjured a circle of warmth and a pallet of furs and leathers.  Frustratingly, this seemed to cheer Thor immensely; he wiped the grief from his face and thanked Loki profusely for his hospitality and love, promising to hunt and roast dinner for him in return. The wild pig was, Loki had to admit, delicious, and as he licked salty, hot grease from his fingers he thought about how he might ruin this experience for Thor entirely.

Thor was, of course, in his element, tearing into the pig and drinking lustily from the cask of ale they'd brought with them from Asgard, the stupid firelight making his stupid hair shine like gold. Suddenly, without warning, he leapt at Loki with a big stupid grin on his face and seized him by the shoulders.

"You see?" Thor said, shaking Loki so that the piece of pork flew from his fingers. "I knew the fresh air would revive you. Bring color to your cheeks," Thor said, and winced; no doubt the color in Loki's cheeks was blue. Loki felt a cold smile freeze on his face. "That is to say," Thor said quickly, hands tightening on Loki's shoulders, "that I am glad to be here with you. Out in the wild, like old times."

That was it. That would poison everything. There were, he now saw, other, subtler forms of destruction: other roles that he, in his hate, might yet play.  "Yes," Loki agreed slowly. "Clever of you to choose such an isolated spot." He unbuckled and shrugged out of his jacket, then opened his shirt, ignoring Thor's shocked look. "I know how you worry about gossip. But here--" he drawled, reclining back into the nest of furs and unlacing his trousers, "you can take me, use me to your heart's desire--"

Thor's face reddened as Loki began to stroke himself hard. "That--I had not the intention--"

"No one need know," Loki whispered. "Now or ever." His heart was hammering with glee: there would be no way past this, now that it had happened. This moment would always be between them, provided he could continue to feign misunderstanding. Thor was staring at him in horror: well, he could use that; twist it. "This is what you wanted, isn't it?" he murmured, sliding his hand up his belly: Thor's eyes followed. "Why you brought me here, away from all our friends. It's all right: you don't have to force me." He closed his eyes and pushed his cock, hard, into his fist, arching his back; electricity crackled through his nerves. He was half-braced for Thor's blow, but that, too, would bring its pleasures: the tingle of a bruised mouth, knowing he'd won. "Unless you wish it. I do it willingly, brother...."

The blow didn't come. Loki opened his eyes: Thor still stared at him, paralyzed with revulsion and disgust. Loki determined to provoke him to action; he would play his part until Thor committed himself and smashed this fiction of their brotherhood into pieces. He surged up and almost into Thor's lap, stroking his hands up Thor's hard-muscled arms and then, finally, cupping his bearded face.

"It is all right. I know," Loki said to him, low and savage. "Better than anyone, I know the demands of your position, what constrains your desires, the preposterous paradox of being a god and yet being forced to conform to the straitened morality of fools--I know you, Thor, better than you know yourself--" He tried to kiss Thor's mouth and was stopped by arms of iron, so strong they shook his bones. Relief surged through him as Thor shoved him away and held him at arm's length: finally.  Loki exhaled--the blow would be better borne if he relaxed--and prepared his first barb, the first savage jab, for he would never, ever let Thor escape the imputation that he had wished to lie with his own--

Thor held him at arm's length and looked at him. He was thinking. Loki always worried when Thor tried to do that, for fear he might break something. Loki became abruptly conscious of his own body--of his bare chest and his erect nipples, of his cock jutting out from the open v of his pants. He was practically naked  and sitting in his brother's lap, but Thor was staring at his face.

When he finally spoke, it was so softly that Loki had to lean in to hear.  "All right," Thor said in a low voice.  "Come to me," and it was only when their mouths touched that Loki realized that Thor had taken his bent head as an invitation.  But by then it was too late, and Thor was cupping his head with his hands, angling their mouths together, deepening the kiss, sucking and--with tongue--and--

It was--it.  He.  He was clawing at Thor's jerkin, licking the long tendon at the side of his--  Thor was.  Even as he fell back into the warm pile of fur, Thor on top of him, inching down him, mouth soft and wet on his nipple, tongue trailing down his breastbone, Loki thought that--yes--this could work, too.  He would be the tempter; the corrupter; Loki the perverse. He would be the snake in the garden and engineer Thor's fall. He would take his brother down with him, drag Thor down to the---the very depths of--  He had never imagined Thor sucking cock so magnificently, which was probably just as well; the penalties for this in the tales was quite clear.  He groaned and thrust his hands down into Thor's hair, wrapping the golden strands around his fingers, and pulled him down, pushing up with his hips.  He felt more than heard Thor's answering groan, a vibration around his cock that left him gasping on the edge of orgasm.  "Fuck," he heard, and it was himself, "fuck," and then he was pushing Thor off, grabbing at his shoulders and tugging him up, and gasping, "fuck me," and, "come on--now, now--"

Thor lifted his face to Loki's. He was flushed and breathless, and he seemed lost.  "I--" He hesitated. "I will try. If you wish it. But I have not the--" Loki slung an arm around Thor's neck and kissed the confusion from his face. With his other hand, he groped blindly in Thor's lap and was pleased to find him enormous and erect. And then they were grappling to common purpose, Thor grabbing his waist, Loki scrambling on top of him, still kissing and biting his mouth. Loki screwed down and heard Thor gasp--Thor's gasp--and opened his eyes wide, wanting to see him, glorying not only in the blinding pleasure of their fucking but in the scandal of it. To his credit, Thor held his gaze in return -  no denial or embarrassment here--and Loki felt a violent rush of love for him: for his strength, for his audacity

Perhaps Thor caught a glimpse of his sudden, stupid sentiment, because all at once Thor was kissing him, and toppling him backwards, and fucking him into the ground. It occurred to Loki in passing that it was unfair for Thor to fuck like a champion on top of everything else, but he couldn't maintain sufficient resentment. Instead, his gritted his teeth and mustered every last bit of his own sexual technique and athleticism, determined to show Thor that in this, as in everything, he was superior.  Loki managed to tear all control from Thor for half the night, leaving him gasping and flailing as Loki rode him, giggling and gasping. But Thor had truly admirable stamina as well as a heroic recovery time, and so Loki too was often limp and moaning in incoherent ecstasy: fucked into submission. Thor was one of the best fucks he'd ever had; or all right, he could admit it: perhaps even the best. 

By the time they lost steam, Loki was exhausted and starving and sore. Thor, on hands and knees, clumsily dragged over the rest of the roast pig.  He tore off a piece and ate it, then collapsed with his face pressed against Loki's arm.  Loki looked up at the sky, which was radiant with stars, and debated reaching for the pig himself.  He realized, belatedly, that Thor was--pressed up--one arm--cuddling, he supposed, was the word. He turned in disbelief to stare. Thor was already half asleep.

"That was... You have always been smarter than me," Thor said drowsily. He drifted off to sleep, face relaxed, seemingly content. On the one hand, Loki was proud that Thor had fucked him without shame; on the other, shame had been crucial to his plan. He wanted Thor to feel debased, filthy, dragged through the muck. He had wanted to burden Thor with disgraceful sensations until he could never again look upon himself in a mirror: he wanted to fuck, suck, and finger him until Thor could not face their father without shame.  Whereas Thor did not seem at all bothered, damn him.

He had anticipated rejection, not success; now that he had Thor, what was he to do with him? 

Cast him off! --Well, surely he could, and Thor would no doubt be hurt by it, but they would soon be back where they started: Loki glowering, Thor cringing and yapping like a wounded animal. 

Publicize their debauchery! Surely he could count on the good people of Asgard to bring home, even to one as dim as Thor, the vast disgrace of his position: the twisted, brother-fucking King-in-waiting. --And yet, experience told him that he would be blamed.  All the stories told the same: it would be Loki the trickster, Loki the seducer.  If Asgard heard that Thor had lain with Loki nobody would blame Thor.  Nobody ever blamed Thor for anything. Loki closed his eyes and squeezed his hands into fists.

No, he had to play a longer hand.  He must be Loki the seducer, and draw Thor away from his friends.  He had underestimated Thor's affection for him, as well as Thor's capacity for lust.  No more.  Thor would be invincible against any outside force: he had to be undermined from within. He had to keep up his pose, keep their misalliance silent, and draw Thor down into the hell that he now occupied, alone.


Chapter 3

It was easier than he expected to draw Thor away from Asgard. After a discreet and vaguely thrilling month in which they met in obscure corners of the Citadel and fucked on staircases and sneaked into each other's chambers at odd hours and fucked each other with sweaty hands clamped against each other's mouths, Loki announced that he needed air and wished to go to the drinking halls of Vanaheim.

"I will go with you," Thor told him, "for I am still your Guardian by Odin's will. Moreover, I can not yet bear to be parted from you. I confess that it was not my plan on Ravendal to seduce you," he added ruefully, "though that only proves the inferiority of my plans." Loki barked out a laugh and Thor grinned goodnaturedly at him. His laugh died as Thor cupped his neck most tenderly. "I foolishly thought only to give in to your desires," Thor said softly, "never knowing I was finding my own."

Loki stared at Thor and swallowed. "The ale on Vanaheim is remarkably good," he said finally.

"I remember it, yes," Thor agreed.

The ale was in fact much better than Loki remembered, and the games!--by Odin's beard, he had somehow forgotten the mighty pleasures of Vanaheim's gaming tables. He and Thor got wildly drunk and gambled for days, shoulders pressed together, steadying each other against the table. Loki was better at than Thor at strategy but, as when they were children, Thor had a gift that defied all odds--even so drunk he was sweating ale, it was always Thor who place the winning bet, made the winning move, threw the winning roll. They ended up playing as a team against two loutish fire-demons, and after a long stretch of bad luck in which they feared they might lose everything to the burning bastards, Thor threw a gloriously improbable round on which got them back in the game, and left his more skillful brother to clean up. Thor screamed in victory at Loki's last triumphant roll of the bones, lifting him clean off his feet, hugging him and pounding his back. "Are we not invincible?" Thor boomed. "Is there nothing we can not together achieve?" and then, before Loki could protest, he picked up their winnings and hurled them at their demon opponents. Coins and jewels flew through the air, glittering red in the firelight. "Take it," Thor boomed. "I care not for these winnings. I leave with far greater--"

Loki elbowed him, hard, and quickly spun his finger in the air, sending the coins and jewels whirling into orbit above the table. "Quite a sum, actually," he murmured, leaning in close. "Also I believe that's the lost fibula of Nidavellir as well as Njord's enchanted ring, said to endow its wearer with--"

"--I leave with only what is mine," Thor concluded hastily as Loki snatched back the gold, the dwarf-medallion and the ring. "Including the love of my dear brother, which is beyond all price."

"To say the least," Loki muttered, and pushed Thor out of the hall. "Come," he told Thor, "let us go to the palace. My ancestry may be suspect but yours, Odinson, is not. They must receive us gloriously."

Thor shook his head. "No," he said, "let us seek shelter with the common people, in the tavern--"

"Euuch," Loki said, shuddering with distaste.

Thor kissed him: right there, in the open air outside Vanaheim's noblest and most ancient hall. Then he murmured against Loki's lips: "Surely we have not left the entrapments of one palace just to enter another? There will be ceremonies and protocols, courtiers and sycophants. We will have to dance attendance and have it danced upon us in turn. We will not be alone for a moment."

That was true, and of course, getting Thor alone--away from all that made him Odinson--had been the point, hadn't it? He supposed that made it worth enduring the tavern. "All right," Loki said, fingertips going almost of their own accord to touch Thor's face. "But we must disguise ourselves."

Thor smiled. "Enchant me," he said.

So it happened that Thor, God of Thunder, pushed his way to the bar appearing as a simple farmer in rustic pants and an undyed shirt, his golden hair pulled back at the nape. Loki sat at a table near the door and glared icily at anyone who dared approach: he had not created the she-version of himself plainly enough, and he was now attracting the dog-eyed passion of the male peasants and the envy of their ugly, stupid wives. His green dress was too striking, perhaps, and his loosed hair seemed to provoke. Perhaps, too, he ought to have created himself blonde like the rest, but a person could only change so much without losing themselves entirely, and he couldn't make himself appear Aesir now he knew he wasn't.

A young farmer appeared out of nowhere and asked if he knew he had beautiful eyes. Loki smiled at him and he choked on his tongue. He was lurching away, clawing at his throat, when Thor appeared, wreathed in smiles, and showed Loki a large iron key. "Come, brother," he said, in a low voice, "it is arranged. The good barkeep has let us a room. No one will think to seek for us here."

"No, indeed," Loki said, when Thor had led him up back stairs to the attic, "no one would think to find me dead here," but in fact the bed was ample and the linens seemed clean, and before Loki could complain about the rough floorboards or the draft or the likelihood of rats, Thor's hands were cupping his breasts through his dress: he'd forgotten he had breasts. "Oh. Well," Loki said, nipples tightening as Thor's hands moved over them. He had a rush of sense memory: multiple orgasms. "Hm. Perhaps only this once," and then he shoved Thor back onto the bed, hiked up his skirt, and climbed on.

Thor was, irritatingly, just as good at pleasing a female lover as a male one, though where he had learned to do either, Loki couldn't imagine: he was always so busy brawling and hurling javelins and saving lower forms of life. But Thor's fingers were fairly miraculous, and Loki gasped and let his head loll as Thor fingered and fucked him, enjoying the female body's marvelous capacities. It was only after his third orgasm that he sensed an air of melancholy in Thor, and so he tugged on his hair until Thor lifted his head from between his legs. "What is it?" Loki asked, rather breathlessly, leaning up on his elbows.

"By all the gods, you are passing lovely in this form, but…I do miss your cock," Thor admitted.

"Ah." That was so surprising that Loki wasn't quite sure what to say. He would have liked to congratulate himself on so thoroughly seducing Thor into perversity, but he was depressingly sure that he would be lying to himself. "Well. I needn't stay in this form any longer," and Thor brightened.

"I would prefer you as yourself again," Thor said earnestly, and so Loki did, closing his eyes and sliding back into male form. Thor rewarded him with a gorgeously slow and exquisite sucking, after which Loki was so exhausted that he could only lay there and let Thor touch and use him as he liked.

Afterward, he fell into a deep, drunk, sated sleep, and knew not himself for days. When he finally awoke, he was surprised to see that Thor had awakened before him, and was propped up on one elbow, staring down at him. The morning sun was at the window, sending golden light through his hair. Loki blinked up at him, suddenly feeling rather less like the demonic seducer of kings and more like some country bride the morning after her wedding. The thought was enraging, and he opened his mouth to snarl at Thor, or maybe rip out Thor's esophagus out with his teeth, when Thor said, meditatively, "Since you take such pleasure from the drinking halls and gaming tables, brother, I know where next to take you," and that was how Loki found himself on the dance floor at Halo, a giant, industrial discotheque on the Skalitzerstrasse in Berlin. Berlin seemed to him rather uncomfortably close to Stuttgart, and he kept a hand up near his face until he became reasonably sure that he wasn't going to be recognized. On the other hand, this was the first place on Midgard where he'd ever seen anything close to fashion sense, and he and Thor were able to check their capes and the larger and more dangerous bits of their armor and more or less blend in. One fellow was wearing a pair of snakeskin pants so wonderfully constructed that Loki debated asking the name of his tailor.

Also, the ale was remarkably good. They drank it by the tankard and danced together under the multicolored flashing lights, sweating in the mass of heaving bodies. They were taller than everyone else, though not by much for a change. The Midgardians of this region seemed better bred than most, or at least had less of the sniveling sickliness that seemed to characterize the rest of the species. Loki found his attention drifting to one, then another of them. It may be that Thor had his reasons for being interested in these monkeys. Their native servility could be bent to many purposes, he supposed.

He tested this theory some time later by inveigling two not-insubstantial Bavarians into a threesome in the back of the vast chrome and leather men's room. Loki happily made himself a throne of the first fellow's thighs and arms while the second knelt and paid devout attention to his cock. He relaxed, closing his eyes and drifting off on pleasure, letting them indulge their need to worship him. Thor really might be on to something here on Midgard: oh, certainly, the natives were weak and stupid, but their cities had at least some amenities, and of course, this sort of willingness did count for--

Something. A momentary stillness in the air, some brief cessation of noise. Loki opened his eyes and saw Thor standing a few feet away, a bright pink drink in each hand. His expression was.... Loki's heart started pounding, though he couldn't think why. And then all at once it came to him, and he shoved the mouth off his cock. What a fool he was. To waste such a weapon! Thor's face showed his disdain for these inferior creatures: obviously he felt that Loki's behavior shamed Asgard as surely as if he were fucking sheep or horses. Thor's fondness for the creatures evidently did not extend to bestiality. Useful knowledge: a knife he could sheath, if he hadn't already squandered the opportunity to use it.

"Thor, wait," Loki said, and fumbled for his trousers.

"Do not trouble yourself," Thor said, and shoved one of the bright pink drinks at him. It sloshed over Loki's hand. "I thought only to bring you refreshment, but I see it is ill-timed." He turned and left the men's room, and Loki hesitated only a moment before following.

"Thor," Loki called again, trailing Thor's wake through the throng of partiers, shoving savages this way and that. "Wait!" he called--and Thor stopped and stared, transfixed, at a bank of screens overhead.

Loki looked up as well. A dancing girl, a sporting event, a bus on fire--and then he saw what had drawn his brother's attention. CRISIS AT AVENGERS TOWER! ran across the bottom of the screen, and the jerky image - taken from some sort of aircraft - showed the monster and that lying bitch of a girl on the tower's terrace trying to fight what appeared to be an army of flying robots. Thor stared for another moment and then said, more to himself than to Loki, "I must go."

"I'll go with you," Loki said immediately.

Thor turned and looked at him with a strange expression. "Yes," he said, "you will, for as I am sure you remember, brother, you have been given your liberty insofar as you remain in my custody."

So: no more talk of finding it unbearable to part from him. Loki nodded slowly. Perhaps that was best.

"Of course," Loki said to his brother-gaoler with a little bow. "Wherever you go, I shall go."

"To the tower, then," Thor said, and wormed two coat-check stubs from the pocket of his trousers. "Have you got any coins?" and Loki magically made gold appear between his fingers.

It was heartwarming, really, to get such a welcome in these days when memories were so short. How quickly the Avengers reacted: Barton immediately swerving his bow and arrow, the Captain dropping instantly into a shield-protected crouch. Thor seemed not to notice; instead, he strode to the windows and considered the swarm of attacking robots, thick as moths outside the windowpanes. The monster was still swatting them out of the sky, one at at time one; a moment later, Roman off flung herself back inside, panting and shivering, before seeing him and quickly taking up a defensive posture.

Thor turned back to them, oblivious to the tension.

"I saw it on the television," Thor told them. "'Crisis at Avengers Tower'--"

"So you brought us more crisis?" An elaborate computer projection vanished to reveal Stark, in armor but without his helmet. "Because I got to tell you Thor, more crisis is just what we didn't need."

"You were watching television?" the girl asked incredulously.

Thor seemed not to understand either of them. "Yes," he answered the girl, this being the easier question to address. "We were in a nearby drinking hall. But we have come now to help."

"We?" Barton repeated skeptically. "Who's we, kimosabe?"

Rogers jerked to look at him. "Hey, I know that show.".

Stark's eyes never left Loki. "See, Thor, I'm really not understanding your definition of help."

"I'm still trying to picture these two at a bar," Romanoff muttered. "Was it a sports bar?"

"Explains the outfits." Barton glanced back at the robots, then said, "Guys, we still have ourselves a bit of a situation. Stark, you better get that EMP ready," and slid out to shoot some exploding arrows.

Stark tore his eyes away to steal a brief, miserable glance at his computers. Loki grinned at him: to destroy the robots, Stark would risk destroying his own machines. Stupid, really, considering that the robots were not even electro-magnetically powered; they looked to be from Argon, whose drones worked thermodynamically, sucking heat from the surrounding atmosphere. Romanoff hadn't even realized she was shivering, let alone that her shivering had significant implications.

"Forget the EMP," she said, and pointed at Thor. "We have all the juice we need right here. Steve and me, we'll draw them away from the Tower, you and the big guy keep them keep them corralled, and then we'll have Thor shock the hell out of them."

"Yeah, great idea: we'll just leave Loki here to keep an eye on things," Stark said, and then, turning to him, "Loki, buddy, make yourself comfortable. There's some chicken salad in the fridge--oh, and hey, maybe stay away from the cutting edge weapons technology, now there's a good supervillain."

Thor drew himself up, obviously offended on Loki's behalf. "My brother is here to help."

"Your 'cutting edge weapons' are playthings," Loki scoffed. "You know nothing of weaponry."

Stark showed him a big, cold rictus of a smile that was his way of expressing anger, no doubt a genetic holdover from the chimpanzee. He went over to Thor and tried to put a friendly arm around his shoulder, a gesture made even more ludicrous by their height difference.

"He won't help," Stark said, flat-out, trying to maintain eye contact with Thor. Thor's face was like stone. "He's not gonna fucking help, okay?" Stark repeated. "He's going to wait until we're fighting the killer robots and then set the building on fire. He's sitting there right now counting his cards and trying to think of the most devastating play he can make," and the thing was, Stark was absolutely right about that: Loki had, in fact, been trying to decide whether to undermine them in battle or cause mayhem in their rear flank.

Seeing Thor shake his head in denial should only have made the moment sweeter: betrayals were best when unanticipated, and now the humiliation would hurt Thor more than the injury: to be so wrong, so spectacularly, in front of his friends, these overweening animals. Stark had cast the play perfectly, it only remained for him to play his wonderful, terrible part.

And yet: was he to perform in a scene of Stark's devising? And Thor--was his brother-king to be lectured by these tiny people? Did that preening, self-important monkey presume to know him better than Thor? How dared any of them even look upon him: in a more rational culture they should be blinded for their very presumption. He would not play: he could not bear to see them proved right.

"I will help," Loki said, coming forward; he stopped when Natasha aimed a gigantic weapon at him. "In fact, I'll do better and save you - and your little machines - from your own stupidity." Thor's face was shining with happiness. Loki looked away and said, "Not heat, you pestilent imbeciles. Cold," and really, their expressions as he transformed into his Jotun-self were most gratifying.


Chapter 4

Afterwards, Thor went with the other Avengers to clean the smashed-up robots and other debris from the street below. Loki, his blood still running cold, took deep breaths of warm air as he returned to his normal shape. In one corner, keeping watch in his tatters and rags, was Banner.

"That was really something," Banner murmured softly, as if to himself, as if having a soft voice would fool anyone. Loki ignored him, and studied his hand instead: the color was coming back, the silvery blue veins receding. But the man-monster would not stop talking. "I didn't know you could do that."

"You know so little of anything," Loki snapped, "I am surprised your ignorance even registers."

Banner surprised him by laughing. "Yeah, well, I'm hopelessly provincial: lived on one world my whole life." He was sliding into a pale green shirt and fitting tiny metal spectacles onto his eyes: another lie. Loki narrowed his stare as Banner drifted closer. Who did he think he was fooling? "All the same, I've never seen anything like that. I've only ever seen two other blue people and both were mutants--human beings. Yellow eyes, not red. But that ice-creature you became: what was it?"

Creature. Loki showed his teeth, lips pulling back into a snarl. Banner didn't just react: waited expectantly, calm to the point of dullness, like a pudding.

"I thought Thor would have told you. The Jotun are enemies of Asgard. Monstrous beyond the telling of it. Bringers of Eternal Night. Kings of Ice." Loki was strangling in cold fury; he remembered Laufey calling Odin a murderer and a thief. Blood father, false father. Two fathers, no father. "I was born of that world," he told Banner. "I am of it. It is my true face, though I hate it."

Banner's face twitched and he went quickly into the kitchen. "Yeah," he said, beginning to busy himself operating some small machine. "I know what that is. You want a cup of coffee?"

"A what?" Loki asked, but the brew was quite satisfying.

"Ah, you have discovered one of Midgard's many treasures," Thor said appreciatively, upon his return. "I like that drink very much. I cannot think why we have not brewed something like it on Asgard."

"I shudder to fucking think," Stark muttered, pouring himself a mug, "of you people on caffeine."

Loki pointedly ignored the monkey-man. "Yes, it is good," he said to his brother. "It is reassuring to know that there are some local delicacies. I had feared we'd be limited to slops and sodapop."

"Hey, hang on there, Epicurious.com." Stark propped himself against the counter between them, forcibly interjecting himself into the conversation. "You're standing at the culinary center of the world. Paris thinks they are, of course, but they're wrong, of course, like they are about everything."

Loki whistled, pursing his lips. "Ah, but alas: the center of nowhere is still nowhere."

"Oh, those are fighting words," Stark said. "Daniel Boulud is gonna kick your ass."

"Wait: those are fighting words?" Rogers boggled. "What about, 'Kneel before me?' or--"

"Eh, that was so last summer," Stark replied. "You can't live in the past. Well, you can."

Thor stood up and clapped Stark on the shoulder hard enough to knock him back a bit. "My friend," he said, "you have shown yet again that you have a charitable mind and a generous heart."

"Sorry, who's he talking to?" Barton asked Natasha.

"I can't believe I'm hearing this," Rogers protested.

"He did just stop an army of killer robots on my doorstep," Stark pointed out. "He saved you by throwing up that ice blind--hell, the guy shot icicles out of his fingers. That was pretty badass."

"That isn't the question," Barton said through gritted teeth. "We know he's badass. Consider his badassery stipulated."

"The question," Rogers insisted, "is: will he murder us all in our beds?"

"I dunno," Stark said; through all this, he still hadn't taken his eyes off Loki. Loki showed him a deliberately unsettling smile. "Do you know? " No answer. "What about you, Thor: do you know?"

Thor was insulted at the question. "Of course he will not. I vouch that he will not."

"Doc?" Stark asked, and Banner looked up from his coffee and shrugged.

"Past performance does not predict future results," he replied.

"I thought you were a scientist," Barton said accusingly.

"I am a scientist," Banner said, jamming his hands in his pockets.

"Natasha?" Stark asked.

"Well," she sighed, appearing to consider the matter, "they do say keep your friends close and your enemies closer--"

"Too close!" Barton and Rogers yelped simultaneously.

"--but fortune cookie fortunes aside, I'm in favor of anything that gets me a dinner from Boulud," and at this, Stark laughed and turned to her and said, "Right, that's the spirit."

The food, Loki had to admit, was uniformly excellent. Stark got on the phone and shortly thereafter plate after plate of food was brought up to them and spread upon the table, Steve Rogers having categorically refused to endanger New York City by permitting Loki to go out to a restaurant. This despite Thor's well-reasoned argument that they had just been out enjoying themselves in the city of Berlin and it was none the worse for wear. "Oh, well, Berlin," Rogers snorted inexplicably.

Loki had an exquisitely cooked bit of fish, and a lamb chop cooked with fennel and fig sauce. There was also something delicate and delicious called caviar that Loki thought surpassed even coffee.

Thor was scraping the fig sauce off his plate with his knife. "Is that it?" he asked, and Stark sighed and had someone bring him a steak.

The meal was so good that it actually seemed to have the power to lessen hostilities among them: oh, certainly, the Avengers were all still watching him warily, but several of them had moved their hands off their weapons, and Barton had actually put down his bow for long enough to enjoy his panna cotta.

The pleasures of dessert could not mitigate the dread he felt at losing the thread of his narrative. To be the enemy of these creatures was pointless: they were living their tiny lives, banging rocks together and playing video games and inventing clever desserts, like this delicious braised pear with gelato. Oh, there was some small pleasure to be found in unnerving them, as when Loki held out his hand to Thor, announcing his intention to retire, and delighted in the shock writ so plain upon his friends' faces as Thor joined him. But Thor was not in the least ashamed or distressed, nor could Loki wish he had been: it was not for any man to judge the behavior of gods, and Loki missed nearly all of the mortals' own mildly amusing squawking and fluttering while Thor was kissing him.

Loki was uneasy and impatient with himself in their adequately luxurious quarters; he did not even spare the time to crack the lenses of the staring optical devices, but drove Thor into the bed and took him, channeling everything into it: this fuck, this connection, this body beneath his. Thor panted and shuddered and begged for more, for more, more--please--and Loki dragged him to the edge of the bed and shoved his shoulders off it, pushing his thigh up and fucking him upside down, head flung backwards, golden hair grazing the floor and blood rushing to his face.

Lying in bed afterwards he thought to persuade Thor to leave at once -- perhaps a visit to Gotenheim for the annual tournament. Movement was not plot, but might at least provide the simulacrum of one, substitute for purpose, for meaning. But Thor had been made so obviously happy by the cessation of hostilities that Loki had trouble devising a winning approach. "I never doubted," Thor murmured as he drifted off to sleep the sleep of the well-fucked. "I never doubted you at all," and Loki bit back his reply, which was that doubt required thought, where credulity required nothing at all.

Still, he came to see some of the pleasures of this life. He had been cast in a comedy, slumming with his brother-god among the chimpanzees. Stark was engrossed in his little machines, while Banner peered through microscopes at insects yet more trivial than himself. Rogers spent hours punching invisible demons while Romanoff gripped rings and spun herself through the air. It was fun to watch them all: Loki felt he now understood why living with animals was said to be therapeutic. His brother and Clint Barton spent endless hours playing Grand Theft Auto and shouting: Loki did not understand why you would pretend to drive through city streets and kill civilians when you could do the real thing, just outside. Possibly the game was more challenging. He pressed his hand to the window: New York was interesting, a city built on ancient physics and half-understood magic. He felt sure he could blow the buildings down but resisted the urge to try: Thor would only make him build them up again.

It was all right, surely, merely to eat and drink and enjoy the simple life. It was no different from lying before the fire in the great hall of Hreftheim, dozing while the hounds licked your fingers. Great men often had such interludes before their years of greatness: Halvard's Prince Gunner spent his youth in the bordello, and Shakespeare's Prince Hal logged hours in the tavern, cavorting with peasants and thieves. Thor Odinson himself, future king of all Asgard, was happily executing cheats in Grand Theft Auto. Why should he not take a role in the comedy? He had watched many episodes of Friends. He could--

He turned away, dry-heaving, and pressed his forehead to the cold glass of the window: his whole body rebelling against it. No. He was not made for comedy. He would smash everything, redirect rivers to drown and mountains to crush bones: that at least would provoke growth and change and challenge, for himself and for others. If that be monstrosity, so be it. Better to be a monster, if it were that or this.

Determined now, he whirled, hand extended - a power surge to start, he thought; one strong enough to blow out all Stark's equipment, and the windows besides. But Thor was before him, coming toward him with a serious face as Stark blazed past. "The harbor," Thor said grimly, seizing his arm. "Come,"-- and there was a vast ship on fire, already listing dangerously onto one side. Stark was desperately trying to keep the boat upright, a spark of fire against the sea. Thor dropped Loki onto one of the decks, then landed beside him. Around them, panicked people were fighting to get into lifeboats.

"I'll put out the fire," Thor shouted, rushing away. "Help these civilians!" Loki looked at the screaming, shoving mass of humanity with distaste and considered putting them all out of their misery. Someone moved past him - Rogers - shouting, "Citizens! Please! No need to panic! Let's have a nice orderly evacuation! Step away from the--" and there was a horrified gasp as the crowd surged against the railing and knocked a woman who'd been stupidly trying to climb over it off balance. She screamed, and Loki leapt out, catching himself on the railing, and grabbed her by the ankle. Her purse tumbled down, spinning, and landed in the sea with a tiny splash. Loki yanked her up and dumped her unceremoniously back on the deck, head first, legs in the air. In its hysteria, the crowd didn't seem to notice, though Rogers shot him a nasty glare before turning back to continue waging his pathetic campaign of cooperation.

"People!" Rogers shouted. "Come on, now: stand back--"

Loki strode up to him and gripped him tightly by the shoulder. "You fool," he said, casting a spell with a twist of his hand. "Their consent is not required." The spell rippled through the crowd like a shockwave. The jostling stopped. "What," Rogers said, open mouthed. "What the hell did you--"

There was a deafening hiss, and then a cloud of black smoke belched upward, white smoke pushing up from underneath. Loki turned to watch; a moment later Thor flew out of the smoke, looking sooty and a bit singed. Romanoff appeared too, breathless and panting, from a side door.

"That was no accident," Romanoff said darkly. "That was a bomb: your standard homemade job, ammonium nitrate, nitromethane--" Stark flew up and onto the deck, landing with a thump. "That was a bomb," she repeated.

"Yeah, I know," Stark said. "Banner's taking samples. Hopefully there's something we can--" He looked around at the passengers, who were smiling beatifically at him; a herd of sheep. "What the hell's the matter with these people?" Rogers pointed accusingly at Loki.

Loki rolled his eyes. "They're fine. A touch of amnesia; perfectly harmless. It stopped them throwing each other off the deck - though why I bothered, I can't imagine. There's billions of you left."

Rogers stepped forward and stabbed a finger at him. "You can't-- You can't just--" but Stark suddenly had a wild coughing fit, glaring and waving at Rogers to step back, and then said: "What the Cap' means, of course, is that it was really good you saved all those people. Really good work there."

Rogers looked like he had developed some sort of bizarre facial tic. "Yes," he managed finally. "Good work. Um...thanks a lot. Um, Loki," and Thor clapped his shoulder, looking proud enough to burst.

Back at Stark Tower, still feeling unsettled, Loki transformed into a raven and flew up and around in midtown, reveling in the freedom of his wings and pausing only to rip apart and eat a family of nesting sparrows. Feeling infinitely better, Loki flew back to the tower, only to discover the Avengers in the middle of an argument, with his brother and Steve Rogers going at it, Tony Stark shuffling between them, hands outstretched to keep them apart, in the awkward role of peacemaker.

"--any longer!" Rogers was shouting at Thor. "This is ridiculous, keeping a mass murderer in the--"

"Do not speak of Loki like that," Thor said in a low, dangerous voice.

"Loki is a lunatic," Rogers insisted.

"He's a powerful lunatic," Stark pointed out. "He's a magician--hell of a weapon for the utility belt."

"Loki is a god and a king," Thor proclaimed. "He is also my brother."

Stark tilted his head to one side. "A little more than that, no?"

Thor flushed. "He's adopted," he said, defensively. "But he is of my blood, all the same. We were raised together, trained together. We ate of the same meat. Loki is the other half of me, and it is not only he who needs an anchor, lest he loses his way. We are ravejard, he and I--"

"He vas my boyfriend!" Tony Stark said, throwing out his arms. Thor stared, and Tony said: "Don't worry about it; we'll watch it, you'll like it."

"Horsepuckey!" Rogers was suddenly on his feet. "This is total horsepuckey. You're nothing like-- When Loki loses his way, Thor, he kills people. Hundreds. Thousands. You would never--"

"I have," Thor said.

There was a moment of silence. Rogers looked shaken, then said, rallying. "I'm not talking about defending us from invading aliens. This isn't about Dresden, or Hiroshima. I'm talking about--"

"I know," Thor said. "And I tell you, I have. I did."

Rogers shook his head vehemently. "Not like that," he insisted.

Loki had wished countless times to see his brother shamed, but he had never imagined this. "Exactly like that," Thor said, ugliness creasing his golden skin. "I know what it is to enter a world with murder in your heart. I did it before he did; to Jotunheim. To the world of his people. That it is a world you care nothing for makes no difference."

Loki could not bear to hear more. He fled, he flew to the very top of the building, and let the raging wind tear his feathers away and drag him back into his own shape, into his own armor, his own skin. It was cold there, he supposed; he didn't feel it himself, as he'd never felt the cold. The parapet was beneath his feet. Far below and all around him, in the glittering towers and stone paths they'd built in their ant-like way, millions of tiny New Yorkers went about their daily business. He stood with hands clenched at his sides, feeling shaken to his very foundation.

He had not lost his story. He had never lost it at all. This was the story, and it was a terrible one: of hubris, of savagery and exile. He had always wanted to be Thor's equal, and so he was, but not as he thought. He and Thor had both waged war on innocent worlds. They had both been cast away. They had both been wrong, and had wronged others. Jotunheim--and something in him seized up, hurting, at the thought of it. Jotunheim, forced to bear first Thor's wrath and then his own violence, and with the memory of Thor's ashamed, crumpled face, Loki found himself panting in short savage bursts, gulping them from the howling wind where it tore at his cloak.

His hands went to his head, fingers threading into his hair at the roots and tightening: twin points of pain upon the skull, where horns might one day have grown, if he had not been plucked from the altar. He would have slain every Jotun alive. He had slain his father; he would have destroyed the entire race of his own blood, if Thor had not stopped him. Thor had saved him from that, had saved Jotunheim.

Thor had saved himself.

Loki opened his eyes, calming a little, trying to control his breath. It was possible, then, that there could be redemption as well as horror in this story. That Thor, ever his elder brother, was simply a chapter ahead, in a tale with a different ending entirely than the one Loki had always envisioned. Not the younger brother casting the elder into the shade at last, proving himself triumphantly worthy of a solitary throne -- but also not the elder proven unassailably nobler, of a higher order entirely. Instead two ascending hand in hand, clawing their way together to the high seat.

Loki looked down again at the people below. He found he could even feel a little of Thor's generosity for them: the thought of it no longer made him want to sneer and rage. They were so vulnerable, these little humans. No special powers, no natural armor or claws: few advanced weapons. They would be prey for any superior race that came to their planet--and superior races would come, tempted by the easy pickings. Loki watched the traffic crawling up Park Avenue South, then made a tiny circle with his finger and stopped a bright yellow taxi from colliding with a bus. The fact that this was not a world he cared for made no difference. He was a king and a god: arbitrary interventions were his business.

He stayed there watching some time longer.

Thor came up and found him sometime later, when the sun had gone down; the wind had died a little and a dazzling array of lights shone across the island's length, little people going back and forth in their windows, talking and eating and loving and fighting. "Here you are: I have been looking for you. Come, we are all having--" He stopped and gazed intently at Loki, then frowned. "Brother, are you well?"

"Yes," Loki said, and found that it was true. "Quite well," and impulsively he caught Thor's shoulders and kissed him.

"Ah," Thor said, confused but happy. "Stark has commanded a mighty array of pizza for our pleasure this evening. I thought you might--"

"Yes," Loki said. "Yes, I would," and he went with Thor back into the tower, and turned the page.

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