A/N: Hello, all. I'll make this somewhat brief: I'm back into fic-writing. Thorki is my new extreme OTP. Duty is being expanded to a multichapter fic, and will have multiple sequels. Always & Always will be continued soon; Chaos Theory will be revisited at some point. Also, keep an eye out for the oneshot I'll have workshopped for my student-taught course on fanfiction this semester! As well as whatever I churn out of my keyboard when I have some spare time, such as this oddity of a fic I've written in response to a fan-drawn comic depicting this topic as erotic. Which I have a huge problem with. Hence this fic as an artistic refutation.

Fic warnings:depiction of rape (potential triggers); some explicit language.

Beta'd by Kayliana


Silver Bands

There was once a time when Loki never shivered from cold. His Jotun blood never took unkindly to a chill; he was simply aware of the drop in temperature. It was often quite pleasant, and never an annoyance.

But now, he curls into himself tighter, shaking and shaking and shaking, trying to bear out the cold because he is freezing. He is freezing solid, it seems, and because he has never experienced this before, he has little idea how to handle it. Yet another torture designed for him in this world. Make the Frost Giant develop hypothermia. That will break him.

A part of him knows, however, that it's the other way around: he's freezing to death because he's already so broken. He'd fought hard against the enslavement at the start, but a century and a half of hard labor, malnourishment, sleep deprivation, and constant beatings and abuse has worn down his defenses. His spirit is bled dry of any substance; and with it, his body's natural resilience to cold.

He's little more than a trembling pile of bones jutting out hard beneath pale flesh, all clumped underneath the gray rags he's salvaged as a form of clothing. He isn't sure when they'll be ripped off his body next, when cruel and lascivious hands will lay claim to him again. But he knows it's only a matter of time. The question is when.

In the meantime, he huddles into as small a shape as he can manage, trembling from cold and misery, and attempts to find some sleep to sustain him. Even twenty minutes left alone for some stolen rest is a blessing, because it could mean the difference between lifting stones and falling on the job, hearing an order or feeling a club because he was too slow to respond, remembering his last daily feeding or stealing food scraps – and risking six months' work in the pleasure house for getting caught.

The cold keeps him awake, however. His body is urging him to stay alert and fight the cold, because succumbing could mean death. At this point, that seems almost a more favorable option. So why does he keep fighting, day after day, year after year? Why doesn't he just give up, and let death deliver him from this eternal suffering?

To distract him from the cold, he focuses on his left hand. On his fourth finger is a band of silver, still shining so brightly against the filth he lies in. His fingers had been nimble and slender before this, but starvation has shrunk them so much it's a wonder the silver hasn't fallen off or been stolen. But no one else has even noticed it. It shrinks and grows with his finger's width. And it never stains or tarnishes.

It's the only thing that can remind Loki that there was once something before this enslavement, that he was once something more. Associated with that past, and that ring, is a name he never dares to mention out loud, lest its protecting power be released into this world and destroyed with the rest of his identity. No, that name stays safe within his mind, brought to the front of his thoughts when he looks at that ring. It's all that still keeps him alive.

He hears footsteps behind him, heavy boots treading on the stone floor of his current hiding place. He's been found. He tries to still his shaking as best he can, staying small to protect himself. It's little use, but it's all he can do.

The boots' owner doesn't approach further. He stands still, a few feet away. Loki can hear his breathing, knowing it will be huffing against his flesh within a few minutes. But to figure out the delay, he risks a glance over his shoulder.

His heart stops. The cold is gone from his bones. He's weeping soundlessly in joy.

Blue eyes are piercing him, bringing warmth back to this derelict world of torturers and slaves. Loki is so weak, hardly able to lift himself up, but his elation finds him the strength to clamber to his feet and collapse into the man's arms.

"…Thor…"

The thunder god allows him to lean fully against him. It's not a difficult feat; Loki probably weighs less than a hundred pounds at this point. All Loki knows now is warmth and relief, knowing that there's something here he hasn't felt in over a hundred years…he is safe.

Warm, strong hands rest against his shoulder blades, sending a tremor of happiness through Loki's being. He's been drawing strength from the thunder god's face in his mind's eye for so long, heard his voice in his heart to cling to a last shred of sanity, and now it's real. It's all going to be alright.

"Get on your knees."

Loki stills. The soft command sounds strange. It takes him a moment to process it, and when he does, he looks up from Thor's shoulder with uncertainty.

Thor's eyes have a glint in them that precedes a thunderstorm. "I said," he utters lowly, "get. On. Your knees."

A sinking chill plummets into Loki's heart, one that has nothing to do with the returning cold in the air. His knees threaten to give out from under him, whether from obedience or horror, he is unsure. This- this is- it can't be-

It looks just like him-

Thor loses his patience, and with a growl he grabs Loki's wrists and twists him down onto the floor, forcing him to his knees while his face crashes into the stone. Loki feels blood at his temple, but it's nothing compared to the searing anguish in his heart. His throat feels tight, and his entire body is clenching in terror. Which will make what he knows will happen, but can't accept that it is happening, hurt even worse.

He's whimpering a litany of "no, no, please, don't," but his pleas are useless. The cold bites into his flesh as rough hands rip away his rags, stripping him naked. When he feels fingers shove inside him with blunt force, a sob breaks through his throat. "No, Thor, please…please stop…" he's crying, but Thor just grows more violent, making him whine in agony.

"This is your husband, isn't it?" Thor growls into his ear. His voice drips with a sadistic sneer as his other hand gropes Loki's cock, his testicles, his trembling thighs, listening to his choking sobs of protest. "You want this. You like this."

"No- I- I don't-" Loki whimpers.

Thor chuckles at his pathetic bleats, as he feels the blood rushing to Loki's intimate parts. "You're lying." Loki feels himself getting hard at the ministrations, no matter how much he tries to fight the involuntary responses with his mind. But in this, he's powerless.

"You're a liar. A sniveling, mewling little liar. I'm going to fuck you so hard you'll be begging for me to make you come." Thor takes out his fingers, unfastens his trousers, and grips Loki's hips. Loki trembles at what's going to happen next. "And you're so disgusting, you deserve it."

He rams inside Loki and, without pause, starts fucking at a brutal pace. Loki screams. He wails and sobs as his body is jerked back and forth across the stone. He wants to stop screaming and just silently bear it out, as he's adapted to doing when this happens. Any crying can happen later, when he's alone again and no one can exploit his weakness further. But this…this has taken even his reactions beyond his control.

He tries to crawl away, but Thor's bruising grip on his hips pulls him backward, making the next thrust even more unbearable, making him scream even louder. Thor curls over him, smothering him in a mock-embrace to pin his arms to his chest. There won't be any escaping this.

He's babbling nonsense, tears and sobs spilling without restraint, crying out words of "please, don't…stop…stop…please, no more…" But it's no use. Nothing can shield him from this pain, when it jars so deeply inside him, when he's so exposed and helpless and pathetic. Nothing can keep him from finally losing his mind.

Thor's heavy panting is hot in his ear. "Shut up," he growls. "You like this. This is all you're good for, you filthy whore."

He's fucking faster, scraping Loki's knees raw across the stone. He pushes Loki down again with a thud, and withdraws as he comes with a satisfied groan, all over Loki's back in a display of ownership.

Loki lies there as the semen falls onto his skin, unable to move or speak beyond choking on his sobs. He can hardly breathe, they're wracking him so hard. His eyes are unseeing into the distance. He's utterly degraded and soulless. Right then, Loki wishes he could die.

xxx

Loki jerks up into sitting as he jolts awake. His throat burns from screaming in his sleep, and he's still screaming, suffocating on whimpers and sobs. It's pitch-black, and it barely crosses his awareness that he's sitting on a soft bed, or that it's warm under the blankets draped around him, because all he can do is shake apart and cry.

He feels movement beside him, and a sleepy voice say "…Loki…?" Revulsion claims Loki's throat and he can't fight down the surge of bile. He lurches forward, barely making it to the edge of the bed before he starts vomiting onto the floor.

Just when he thinks he's done, he retches up vomit again, and again, and again. His body is rejecting everything in an attempt to dissipate the pent-up distress from his trauma. He can't breathe; he's either vomiting or sobbing.

A soft-glowing lamp beside the bed is switched on. He can see the end of the bed now, the carpet, the mess of his vomit on the floor. It makes him heave again. As it takes its course, he feels a warm hand at his back, and soft words at his ear.

"It's alright, Loki," Thor sooths, rubbing small circles into Loki's back. "It's alright, you're alright…shhhh…it's okay…"

Loki tries to fight back a sob, but doesn't succeed very well. Hearing Thor's voice, feeling his touch, makes the dream's terror reenter his mind unbidden. He whimpers, and retches again.

Thor gathers Loki's hair behind his head, holding it out of the way. "It's alright, get it all out…that's what's needed…"

Loki's just dry-retching now, his stomach completely emptied. His brain is screaming at him DON'T LET YOURSELF BE TOUCHED, but he feels so powerless he can't summon the wits to flinch away from Thor's hands. However Thor wishes to touch him, he will.

But this is the real Thor, not the one conjured from his dream. He knows this in how Thor keeps shushing him in a gentle voice, how he keeps rubbing his back to soothe him, how he reaches up to wipe away some of Loki's tearstains from his cheek.

Loki still can't look at him, he's so afraid. He's trembling beneath Thor's hand with thinly-suppressed sobs. A few of them escape, much to his dismay, but Thor reaches around his back, holding him through it. His hand strokes Loki's bicep, caressing slowly.

"It's alright now, Loki," he says. "It was just a dream, just a bad dream. It was just a nightmare. It's over. It's all over now."

The pain isn't over, but his words help Loki reorient himself with his current reality. He isn't in exile in the Far Reaches anymore. He's not a slave anymore, not anyone's property or a tool to be used and abused. He's on Midgard now, in a room in Stark Tower in New York. He's well-fed and well-rested again, all his needs attended to. He's safe, and in the process of healing.

And most importantly, he's with Thor again.

He tries to breathe normally. It's not very successful. His mouth still tastes of vomit, and as he breathes he can still smell it from where some of it went through his nose. He's still fighting down sobs and pathetic whimpers with little success. And no matter how comforting Thor's efforts are, he still cannot stop his damned shaking.

"Come on," Thor urges him gently. "Let's get you cleaned up."

Thor walks him to their bathroom and starts running the bathwater. The tub is an ellipse, but the corners are square, allowing plenty of ledge room. Thor guides Loki down to sit at one such corner while he waits.

First Thor takes care of getting two glasses of water for Loki to rinse out his mouth. He pours the spit-out contents down the toilet, then holds tissues to Loki's nose until he's cleared his nostrils as best he can. While the rest of the bathwater runs, Thor is back in their bedroom with towels, a trashcan, and a can of Lysol, to clean the carpet.

Loki sits, listens to the running water, and waits. His shaking has stilled somewhat, but he's still so afraid. He's still terrified from the dream, but it's something else, too. Even though he has no reason to be, he's afraid of what's coming next.

His stomach pools with dread when Thor enters the bathroom again, stowing the trashcan laden with ruined towels in the far corner. He'll take care of it in the morning, Loki knows; this isn't the first time Thor has had to clean up after Loki's flashbacks and night terrors.

Thor washes his hands at the sink, then turns off the tub's faucet and kneels before Loki. "Would you like help, or would you rather attend to this on your own?"

Loki hears the kindness in the question, knowing Thor means no harm by it. But he feels threatened all the same. His terrified brain is shouting at him to do it himself, to not have Thor see him like this, let alone touch him in this way. But at the same time, he knows he is deluding himself that he can bring himself yet to bathe his own body. He isn't ready to face his naked flesh like that yet, not on his own.

And a deeper part of him, the part that reminds him of the ring he wears, knows that he's yearning for that sort of touch from Thor. He needs the safety and reassurance again. So after a long silence, Loki manages to stammer, "Could…could you-?"

Thor nods, freeing Loki from the need of saying anything further. He smiles slightly, kind and full of warmth. Loki looks down at his lap.

"Can you lift your arms for me?" Thor requests. Loki complies, allowing Thor to ease off his dark T-shirt. Some of his vomit stained the front of it, so Thor sets it aside near the trashcan. A chill shudders once through Loki as the air meets the bare skin of his torso, but he knows it's more from embarrassment than cold. Thor seems to understand that as well, and his fingers brush Loki's side in a gesture of comfort.

He reaches to the waistband of Loki's plaid sleep pants, and a rush of adrenaline pangs Loki in the pit of his stomach. His arms slide into his lap, and he immediately curls inward, shrinking back from the possibility of touch before he even realizes what he's done. You're weak, you're broken, his mind warns him. Don't let him see.

"Loki," Thor whispers, and reaches to hold his face, catching two silent tears Loki hadn't realized he'd let slip away. "It's alright. It's just me." Loki knows this, but his fear isn't letting him accept it.

Thor's face leans in closer. His knuckles gently brush down Loki's cheek, then rise to tuck a few strands of hair behind his ear. His eyes are gentle and imploring, begging for Loki to understand. "It's your husband."

Loki closes his eyes and looks down again, trying to regain control of his conflicting emotions. He realizes that it isn't Thor he's afraid of; it's himself. It's his own reactions to his body, to his vulnerability and weakness. After disconnecting himself from his body's experiences for so long to survive, he now has to face the pain he's shut out, but he's so weak he's scared it will consume him in memories and nightmares forever. His body reminds him of his past. He can't face himself yet.

His eyes open slightly, and he finds himself staring at Thor's ring, the silver band that matches his in luster and beauty. He'd placed that ring on Thor's finger himself, so long ago it feels like another lifetime. A life when they were kings, brothers, and husbands; before Ragnarök, before the fall, before his exile. And even after all that, Thor is still here with that ring, still willing to help him with what he can't do by himself.

Somehow, he brings himself to nod twice, such a submissive gesture that he hates it, but he can't retract it now that it's done. Thor's fingers brush down his face again, so soft he's afraid it will kill him.

Thor is careful as he pulls away Loki's pants and sets them beside the tub. Loki can't look at himself or at Thor, so he fixates upon the cabinet handles below the sink. He's shaking slightly in trepidation, but Thor's hand on his shoulder calms him somewhat.

He lets Thor help him into the bath, and tries to allow the lukewarm water to begin its work on his frayed nerves. But he feels so exposed, so vulnerable, so ashamed and humiliated by his own flesh and what it's been forced to do. He just wants to relax, but he still can't.

It gets easier to relax when Thor takes the soaped washrag and starts bathing him. He was so afraid of it, but it ends up having the opposite effect he'd predicted. Thor is so gentle in his touches, communicating nothing but love to Loki's skin. It isn't lewd or sensual, as to a lover; but it isn't purely clinical either, as a nurse to a patient.

He sits up at Thor's request so as to reach his back, and as Thor starts rubbing the same slow circles as before, Loki realizes what this is. This is as a parent washes his child, loving without requiring anything in return, without any possibility of rescindment.

Thor doesn't linger too long in any location, as the bath is primarily to clean the sweat and the smell of vomit from his skin. But each touch feels like it means something, something soothing and strong, and he lets Loki absorb every bit of his strength from the process.

Loki's only faltering is when Thor reaches to wash between his legs. A prickle of fear rises in him, but Thor sees it coming. "It's alright," he murmurs. "I won't hurt you." Loki forces himself to relax, and only when he nods does Thor continue on, even more gentle than before.

Thor finishes at his legs, then unplugs the drain and helps Loki out of the bath. He's soon ready with a soft towel, and takes care in patting him dry, brushing the cloth across his skin softer than Loki has ever known before. He leaves the towel draped across Loki's lap to preserve his modesty, while he reaches for the fresh pajamas he'd brought in after cleaning the carpet.

After helping Loki dress, he brings the same water cups to allow Loki to brush his teeth, ridding him of the acidic aftertaste of the vomit. When that's done, he doesn't need to ask what Loki needs next. He crouches in front of Loki, who wraps his arms around Thor's shoulders, and Thor is scooping him up and carrying him out of the bathroom.

When Thor carries him in his arms like this, Loki feels a final surrender to the world. For that moment, he's no longer in control of his weight or his movement, as he leaves his safety and protection entirely up to Thor. Thor has never failed him in this, not even once.

Thor sets them both down upon the bed, never letting go of Loki. He settles into the pillows, and then lets Loki get comfortable, who curls up in his lap. He cradles Loki close. For a while, they just listen to each other breathe.

Soon, Thor starts tracing soft patterns with his fingertips against Loki's shoulder. "It's alright, darling," he murmurs. "I've got you. You're safe now. You're safe…"

Loki struggles with his next breath. Thor hears it, and presses a slow kiss to Loki's head. "I've got you now. I'll protect you. No one can hurt you, not anymore."

"You did."

The small voice makes Thor freeze in his movements. "…what…?"

Loki hates to do this to him, but he can't keep this locked inside his chest any longer. "In my dream, you did."

Thor is eerily still. Loki stares across the room, unable to speak of this while looking at Thor. "Well…maybe it was you in my dream. What really happened, perhaps it was…maybe fifty years ago…it was…it was really one of them. He had…you know they look into each new captive's memories, to find their weaknesses."

He doesn't know why he pauses then; he's not expecting a reply from Thor. "He had…created…a projection around himself, to look like you. So…when I looked, I thought…I thought I was…" I thought I was saved, that you hadn't given up on me, that you still loved me like you said you would.

He doesn't say any of those things; Thor already knows them all. Loki knows better right now than to dredge up more feelings of guilt for his husband, who after Ragnarök sat on their broken throne in depression, unable to eat or sleep without reminders, paralyzed by his melancholy for five years before he finally gathered the strength to search for Loki.

"But then you…he…told me to get on my knees. And…"

Thor wants him to stop, he can tell. He doesn't want to hear this. Never once has he asked Loki about the contents of his nightmares, or the details of his actual enslavement. In part it is a kindness to Loki, but it's also in part selfish. Thor doesn't know if he can handle hearing it.

But Loki has to tell him this. So Thor agrees to listen. "And…what?"

Loki's voice turns matter-of-fact and detached. "You threw me to the floor, stripped me naked, and fucked me until you came all over my back."

Silence weighs between them in the aftermath of that sentence. It's unbroken until a long moment later with a whisper of fabric sliding against fabric, as Thor tightens his arms around Loki. Loki's eyes squeeze shut as he sinks into the gesture.

"You drew it out, too…making me scream and beg for you to stop. You told me…I deserved it. That it was all I was good for, that…I was…that I was a filthy whore. That I…I liked it…."

"Loki…"

Thor's voice sounds so broken. Loki's panic threatens to return. He tries to focus on the softness of Thor's gray T-shirt against his face, the lamp on their nightstand; anything to block out the agony threatening to spill over now that his protector is made weak by the tale.

"Loki…is that what you feared tonight?"

He is shaking again, unable to conceal it. Thor's hand tilts his chin up then, making his eyes meet his husband's. Thor's eyes are searching his, a shocked variety of sadness deep in his gaze.

"Are you afraid that I will take advantage of your weakness, and claim our marriage as my right to force myself upon you?"

Loki cannot answer that. He can't. He wants to say no, of course not, I know you never would, but he can't bring himself to do it. He can't say anything. But his silent tears speak for him, and once he realizes they have fallen, and Thor has seen them and knows what they mean, he looks away.

"Loki, look at me."

There is more resolve in Thor's voice this time. It takes a long while before Loki looks up again. Thor shifts to face him more directly, grabbing onto his shoulder with more strength than before.

"I want you to listen to me right now," Thor says. "Please hear what I am about to say." Loki gives a tentative nod.

"We never felt the need to discuss this at the start of our marriage, or even before. I thought it went without saying. But now, after what has happened, I see I must remedy that. So now, I will say what has always been true, and always will be:

"I would never, ever do such things to you. I would never take from your body what you were unwilling to give. I would never force myself upon you. I would never take advantage of any weakness on your part to extract favors from your flesh. I would never touch you if I did not have your consent.

"You are not a filthy whore. Your value is not tied to someone finding purchase in your body. And of all the tortures and violations those monsters inflicted upon you, you did not deserve a single one of them. What they did is their shame, not yours. I cannot tell you enough times that none of it was your fault.

"And just because you chose to marry me, or because you have allowed me the pleasure a hundred times before, that does not give me any right to your body. That right is yours and yours alone. The times you have allowed me access to you in our bed, I have always known it is a privilege, to be revoked at any time you choose. If you ever don't want to, at any moment, all you have to do is say no. And Loki, I will always respect, and abide by, your right to say no."

Loki's eyes are shining at him through brimming tears. Thor's hand at his shoulder rises to cup his cheek, caressing him so tenderly. "Okay?" he asks.

Loki nods. His tears are falling, but now it feels more like release than surrender. Thor smiles at him, his expression nothing but affection. He presses another kiss to Loki's forehead. Loki lets his face stay buried against Thor's neck, letting his tears flow openly, huddling close to his husband's warm body.

Thor gathers him into his arms, stroking his hair and whispering soft promises. "I love you, little brother. I love you so much. And no one will ever hurt you like that again. That's over now. You won't ever have to do those things again, as long as you live."

Loki drifts off to sleep hearing whispers of how much he is cared for, how he is safe, and how he is so dearly loved. And for the first time in a long while, he is truly warm.